Coventry, R.I. – July 9, 1976

Coventry, Rhode Island – July 9, 1976

     On July 9, 1976, a twin-engine Piper Apache with a lone pilot aboard took off from Green State Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, bound for Plainville, Connecticut.  The purpose of the flight was to ferry the aircraft to Plainville for repairs.  While in-route, one of the engines lost power and began sputtering.  The pilot looked for a place to make an emergency landing  and saw an open pasture surrounded by woods.  The plane came in and clipped the tops of some trees at the edge of the field before crashing into the field and leaving a furrow 150 feet long before coming to rest.  There was no fire after the crash, and the pilot was transported to a hospital for serious injuries. 

     The field where the crash took place was known (at the time) as North Field, located about one mile west of Route 102, within view of Sisson Road.  

     Source:

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Plane Crash Lands In Coventry Field; Lone Pilot Injured”, July 10, 1976, Page 7, with photo of crash scene.

West Greenwich – March 24, 1943

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – March 24, 1943

P-47B Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47B Thunderbolt

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 24, 1943, two Army P-47B fighter aircraft (41-6002) and (41-6040) were training over southern Rhode Island when both were forced to land for reasons not stated in the press. One plane, piloted by Flight Officer Oscar C. Kline, 22, of Barrington, New Jersey, came down on Nooseneck Hill Road in West Greenwich, barely missing an automobile before cartwheeling into the woods lining the east side of the highway.  The plane caught fire but did not explode.  The flames were quickly extinguished by the driver of the vehicle that was almost hit, and some other passers by, using brush-fire pump cans obtained from the nearby home of Richmond’s Chief of Police, John Potter.  Unfortunately Flight Officer Kline died as he was removed from the plane.  

     The second P-47B landed about a mile-and-a-half farther down Nooseneck Hill Road in the town of Richmond, near Dawley Memorial Park.  

     Witnesses told investigators that the two P-47s had circled the area several times with their wheels down before attempting to land. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Plane Crashes Kill 2 Pilots – Officials Of Army, Navy Probe Accidents In South County”, March 25, 1943   (This headline is in error.  Only one pilot was killed.)   

Woonsocket Call, “Pilot Identified In State Crackup”, March 25, 1943, Pg. 1 

Springfield Union, (Mass.), “Westover Fighter Pilot Killed, Another Escapes In Two-Plane R.I. Crash”, March 25, 1943

North Central Airport – May 2, 1980

North Central Airport – May 2, 1980

Smithfield, Rhode Island

    

North Central Airport, Smithfield, R. I.  May 2, 1980

North Central Airport, Smithfield, R. I.
May 2, 1980

On May 2, 1980, a 59-year-old man was landing his aircraft, a Piper Tomahawk, at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island, while another Piper Tomahawk was sitting on or near the runway with two men inside.   The incoming plane clipped the second with its wingtip, flipping it over and tearing off the tail section, completely demolishing the aircraft.   Fortunately both men inside were able to climb out on their own and there was no fire.  The incoming plane sustained only minor damage.

     All three men were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.  

     An official from the Department of transportation believed the crash might have been avoided if North Central had a manned control tower – which it does not. 

North Central Airport  Smithfield, R.I. May 2, 1980

North Central Airport
Smithfield, R.I.
May 2, 1980

North Central Airport Smithfield, R.I. May 2, 1980

North Central Airport
Smithfield, R.I.
May 2, 1980

 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “2 Light Planes Collide At Area Airport; 3 Hurt”, May 3, 1980

 

Georgiaville, RI – August 5, 1943

The Wolf Hill Plane Crash – Georgiaville, R.I. 
August 5, 1943

By Jim Ignasher

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. - August 5, 1943. U.S. Air Force Photo

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. – August 5, 1943.
U.S. Air Force Photo

      On August 5, 1943, a U.S. Army Air Corps, twin-engine aircraft, crashed on the Georgiaville side of Wolf Hill and three servicemen lost their lives. As with many events, details get forgotten over time. The story is worth re-telling both as an historical event, and as a way to remember the three men who died in the service of this country within the Town of Smithfield.

     The plane was a Lockheed, RB-34. To be more precise, it was an RB-34A-4, Target Tug, one of only 16 produced for this purpose. Its military serial number was 41-38116.

     The B-34 was initially designed as a light coastal patrol bomber to be used in anti-submarine warfare by the British military before the United States had entered World War II. It had its origins in the Lockheed, Model 18, Lodestar, a civil aircraft, which was re-designed and given the military designation of the Hudson MK I. In 1940, the British Government ordered 375 Hudsons. Subsequent orders were placed with technical improvements and modifications to armament, thus giving the planes designations of MK II, MK IIA, and GR.MK V.

     When the United States entered the war in December of 1941, 200 Hudsons destined for England were diverted off the production line for use by the U.S. Army Air Corps and given the new military designation of B-34. The “B” designated it as a bomber aircraft. Most of the B-34s were later converted for use as training aircraft. Of these 200 aircraft, 57 were used as bomber trainers, 28 were used as gunnery trainers, 16 as target tugs, and 13 as navigational trainers. The remaining 86 planes were passed over to the U.S. Navy when it was decided that coastal protection should fall under the Navy’s jurisdiction. The Navy re-designated the planes as PV-1 Ventura’s and from 1942 onwards, all future orders went to the Navy. The Ventura’s were used by both the United States and Britain throughout the war.

     In October of 1942, the planes that remained with the Army were re-designated RB-34’s to indicate their changed operational status as training aircraft, followed by a letter and number designation to indicate its training role. For example, bomber trainers were designated RB-34A-2, gunnery trainers as RB-34A-3, target tugs as RB-34A-4, and navigational trainers as RB-34B.

     The plane that crashed on Wolf Hill was a target tug. Its function was to tow canvas gunnery targets a safe distance behind it, usually over open water, where fighter pilots would take turns making “runs” at it with their aircraft. The fighter pilots would shoot paint-coated ammunition, with each pilot given a different color, so that afterwards, when the target was evaluated, one could see which pilots had done well and which hadn’t.portewig

     According to the now de-classified official Army Air Corps accident investigation report obtained from the government, on the date of the accident, the plane was being ferried from Westover Field in Massachusetts to Otis Air Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The flight plan filed by the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, stated that take-off time would be 16:00 hours, (4 p.m.), and the flight would take 45 minutes passing over Rhode Island en-route.

     Flying conditions for that day were good. There was a 3000 foot ceiling of broken clouds, with scattered clouds at 1600 feet. Visibility was unrestricted, and winds were out of the north-north-west at 8 to 12 miles per hour.

     The plane was given enough fuel for four hours of flight time. While passing over Scituate, Rhode Island a mechanical problem developed with the right engine.

     Several witnesses gave statements to Army investigators charged with determining the cause of the accident. The following quotes are taken from the official U.S. Army crash investigation report.

     One witness was Robert Swan of North Scituate, who was tending to his garden when the plane passed overhead. He told investigators; “I was attracted by a sputtering of airplane engines coming from a northeasterly direction. I located the plane by sight, which was about a mile from where I was standing. The sputtering was of a back-firing sound, and soon afterwards the motors appeared to have stopped completely. Judging from where I was at, the plane had an altitude of approximately a thousand feet. The plane did not change its course, but seemed to glide in its general heading. It was about two or three minutes from the time I sighted the plane until it went out of view.”

     From there the plane passed near Waterman’s Lake in Smithfield where it was seen by Aashel H. Thorton of Greenville, who recalled; “As I continued to watch the plane, I noticed the right engine had begun to stop. It appeared to me as if the pilot was attempting to start his motor again. I continued to watch the plane until it had gone completely out of sight.”

     Young Daniel Raiche was also at Waterman’s Lake with his mother. His statement said, “My mother and I were on the island at Waterman’s Lake when we heard a plane in the distance. I had a telescope with me so I picked him up when he was some distance away. Just as he was pretty nearly overhead I observed brown streaks of smoke coming from the motors and soon after we heard a sound like backfire. The motors went dead and the ship glided for awhile; the plane sounded like it was going to start up again but the motor went dead. The plane continued to glide in the direction of Greenville; then it banked to the left losing altitude. I watched through the telescope until the plane flew behind a hill. We then packed our stuff in the boat and jumped in the rowboat and rowed to shore. When we arrive(d) there we could see smoke coming from the plane and we knew it had crashed.”

     Daniel arrived home at about 5:30 p.m. and told his father what he had seen. His father directed him to write it all down right away and later forwarded the report to the Army.

     From his home on Coolridge Avenue in Greenville, Francis Kane also saw the plane pass overhead. He reported, “The plane seemed to be gliding, because the left engine was not running, and the right engine was just sputtering. When I first saw the plane it had an approximate altitude of 500 ft. and was loosing altitude all the time.” Mr. Kane was also a volunteer fireman from Greenville and a few minutes later he responded to the crash site.

     Walter Caine and Charles Young watched the plane from the Spragueville section of town. Mr. Caine stated; “The plane appeared to be at a very low altitude just skimming the tops of the trees. I only saw the plane for about a minute and then I lost sight of it. I immediately noticed a pillar of smoke coming from the direction of which the plane was heading. I immediately went to the scene of the crash. When I got there the plane was completely enveloped in flame. Some other men and myself located two bodies from the plane.”

     Mr. Young, a Smithfield police officer, related a similar recollection; “The plane was at tree top level most of the time. As soon as I lost sight of the plane I saw a pillar of smoke coming about three quarters of a mile distance from where I was. I immediately went to the location of where the plane had crashed. The plane was completely engulfed in flames. I found the body of a person about fifty or sixty feet from the fuselage of the plane. I then saw another body which was located about ten feet on the opposite side of the main part of the fuselage.”

     From the other side of Wolf Hill, Corporal John J. Corte of Hill Street also saw the aircraft. In his statement he recalled; “At approximately 4:30 P.M., I was attracted by a B-34 airplane which was in a glide at a very low altitude. The motors of the plane were not running from the time I first sighted it until it went out of view, which was about 5 or 10 minutes. The plane appeared to circle in search of an open field. The plane circled twice and then finally went into a right bank and out of view. A large cloud of smoke came up from the general area in which the plane was last sighted. I immediately went to the scene as a member of the local fire department. When I arrived, I noticed that the right wing had hit into the ground and the plane was completely engulfed in flame.”

     According to a Providence Journal newspaper article which appeared August 6, 1943, on page 1, witnesses reported that, “the plane appeared to be operating on one motor and was circling in search of a landing place.”

     A news item which appeared on the front page of the Pawtucket Times on August 6, 1943, stated that, “Eye-witnesses said the ship first started to spit fire in midair, burst into flame, then crashed with an explosion which set the surrounding woods afire.” 

      The crash site, according to the Providence Journal, reportedly occurred on a rocky ledge on Wolf Hill, about a mile west of Farnum Pike, and about a mile and a half south from the old Smithfield Airport, which was then located where Bryant University is today. The debris field was supposedly spread over an area 50 yards long and 20 yards wide, “with the body of the plane having come to rest on a huge rock”.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

     One of the first to reach the scene was Fred Andrews, the owner of a farm located near present day Farnum Pike and Route 295. The Providence Journal article reported that Mr. Andrews had said that a “heavy explosion followed the crash”, followed by a “second heavy detonation, and several lighter ones.” When he reached the scene everything was on fire. Mr. Andrews’ wife later recalled that the explosions “shook the ground like an earthquake.”

     The explosions and column of black smoke from the fire attracted curious spectators from the surrounding area. A call was placed to the volunteer fire department and crews from Georgiaville and Greenville responded. Once they arrived, they found they couldn’t get near the scene with their engines, so they had to walk in with portable pump cans and shovels to attack the fire.

     Officers of the Smithfield Police, led by Chief Albert N. Lacroix rushed to the scene with first aid equipment. State Troopers from Chepachet and Lincoln also arrived, as well as members of the state forest fire patrol. When word reached St. Michaels Church in Georgiaville, Reverend James H. Beattie went to the scene to administer last rites to the deceased.

     Barbara True Gregor, formerly of Greenville wrote in May of 2004; “I was only eleven years old then; my sisters were thirteen and fourteen. The sight we beheld that day left an indelible impression on our minds. When we arrived, the Army plane had been quickly doused with water by volunteer firefighters, most of whom were teenagers. The boys and men of our town who would normally be on call, were overseas fighting in World War II.”

     “There were three soldiers who died in that fiery crash but only one stands out in my mind all these years later. His charred body was outside the plane, and he died in a crawling position trying to escape the flames. I remember vividly that he wore a metal wristwatch on his outstretched arm.”

     Teresa (Beausejour) Beaudoin, who was 14 at the time of the crash, recalled a similar expierence in September, 2005. “One day during that summer when I should have been cleaning my room, I took time out to look out the window. Suddenly, I heard the high pitched screaming sound of a plane, nose diving toward the earth. Then a crashing sound.

     Curiously, I ran toward the area of the crash, which seemed to be close by. I arrived at the same time as the Georgiaville Fire Department, so I followed the fire fighters carrying water tanks on their backs, into the wooded area behind Fred Andrew’s house, also on Farnum Pike.

     At the site, I observed, a soup bowl shaped area, about thirty or forty feet in diameter and about six feet deep (in a child’s eye). Halfway up the incline, was the motionless figure of a person attempting to crawl out of the hole. He was about halfway up, on his knees, with one hand on the ground reaching and grasping for something to help him out.

     His clothes were completely black, but neither he nor his clothes were on fire. He resembled a statue of coal. I knew instantly he was dead.”

     Other’s who were at the scene that day, have also described how two of the bodies were found in “a crawling position” outside the wreckage. Based on this information, it’s possible that two of the men aboard survived the initial crash and were killed by the subsequent explosions that followed.

A detail of Army troops arrived and quickly roped off the area and took over the scene, forcing everyone to evacuate the area. Once the fire was out, according to a retired firefighter who remembered the incident, “Nobody except Army personnel were allowed back up to the site.”

     Blocking off the crash scene was, and still is, common practice for a number of reasons. Afterwards, very little information about the crash was released by the Army, and with the war in full swing, it quickly became old news as far as the press was concerned as there were no follow-up articles about the incident in any of the newspapers.

     This later led to speculation and rumors by townspeople that there was more to the story. Some claimed the plane was overloaded with bombs and that was the reason for the crash. Others said it was on a secret mission and that was the true reason everyone was kept away. One rumor went that the plane was testing secret experimental radar jamming equipment. All of these rumors were false, but they persisted for many years.

     Army officials probed the crash site for clues to the disaster. Captains Joseph T. Klemovich and Howard A. Tuman, along with First Lieutenant Charles B. Gracey Jr., are listed in the accident investigation report as the three men assigned to investigate the crash. They were pilots assigned to the 58th Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force, then training at Green Field to go overseas. (Green Field is known today as T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.) The fighter group was transferred overseas shortly afterward.

     Lieutenant Gracey arrived at the scene several hours after the crash. In his report dated August 19, 1943, he wrote, “Judging from the position of the parts of the ship I feel certain that the ship struck the ground with its right wing first, for the right wing was very badly damaged and lay a hundred (100) feet to the rear of the main part of the wreckage.”

     Lieutenant Gracey was killed a few months later on a mission in New Guniea.

     Captain Klemovich retired a Colonel in the Air Force and passed away in 1984.

     Captain Tuman also retired a Colonel in command of the 310th Squadron of the 58th Fighter Group. On June 17, 2003, he related from his home in Oregon that he and the other investigators were 21 and 22 years old at the time training to be fighter pilots at Green Field in preparation for overseas duty. He didn’t remember many details about the investigation but related that the transfer of troops and personnel happened fast and was common during the war. He added that stateside military aircraft crashes unfortunately happened all too often. There simply wasn’t the time or the resources to conduct long-term investigations as would happen today.

     The three investigators, in their final report, dated August 19, 1943, stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering all the statements of the witnesses, decided the right engine failed in flight. The pilot having insufficient altitude to recover properly, crashed on a wooded hill.” The report further stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering the statement of Capt. Victor K. Wagner, Maintenance Officer, 331st Sub-depot, Bradley Field, Conn., feels the accident was due largely to faulty maintenance.” Under “recommendations”, the report suggested, “a more thorough supervision of maintenance personnel.” and, “consistent practice in one engine procedure for pilots.”

     All three men on board the RB-34 died in the crash.

     There was the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, age 27, of Richmond, Virginia. A native of Richmond, he graduated from John Marshall High School, and went on to Roanoke College where he specialized in Aviation. He learned to fly at Central Airport and later became an instructor there. On one occasion he won first place in a spot landing contest He was also a flight instructor at Byrd and Hermitage Airports in Richmond, as well as an instructor at the Lynchburg Aviation School, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

     He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 15, 1942, at Indianapolis, Indiana, and was commissioned a second lieutenant due to his seven years of flying experience. While in the Army, he was stationed at Judson Barracks, Missouri, the Bel Val Air Base in Austin, Texas, the Alliance Air Base in Nebraska, and at Langley Field in Virginia. He also served as a flight instructor in the Army.

     He was attached to the 3rd Air Force, 1st Air Support Command, 66th Troop Carrier Squadron. In June of 1943, he was transferred from the Troop Carrier Squadron to the 1st Towing Squadron out of Otis Air Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     Lieutenant Portewig was survived by his mother, Maud Portewig, and two brothers, James M., and Edwin, L. Portewig.

Sergeant Herbert D. Booth

Sgt. Herbert D. Booth

     Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth was the crew chief aboard. A native of Rahway, New Jersey, he graduated Rahway High School June 17, 1941. He was also attached to the First Towing Squadron at Otis Air Field. At the time of his death he was 30 days shy of his 22ed birthday. He was survived by his parents, Mr. And Mrs. William D. Booth. (No further information was available at this time about T/S Booth.)

     Then there was 2ed Lieutenant Saul Winsten, age 25, from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He was assigned to the 901st Quartermasters Company, Aviation Service.

     He graduated from Pawtucket High School and attended Rhode Island State College before entering Brown University School of Law. He worked his way through college and law school by working at the university and at Saltzman’s in Pawtucket. He graduated law school in June 1941, and shortly thereafter, passed both the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Bar Exams getting high marks on each. Two months later, he entered the Army on January 17, 1942, and was accepted to Officer’s Candidate School for the Quartermasters Service at Camp Lee, Virginia.

     He was survived by his mother Leah Winsten, and two brothers who were also serving in the military, Cpl. Harold Winsten, Quartermasters Service, and Joseph Winsten, a medical student at the Navy’s V-12 College Program at Brown University.

     Lieutenant Winsten normally would not have been on the plane. On that day, he was at Westover Field and needed to get to Otis Field. At that time, there was no interstate highway system, and with a war on, and gas rationing, the trip by automobile would have taken about 4 hours. Therefore, it was a common practice to check at the airfield operations center to see if a plane was heading in the direction one needed to go. With a flight scheduled for Otis, he naturally opted to fly instead of drive.

     The Army, as was the custom, cleaned up the crash site and removed most of the plane. The word “most” is accurate because according to some who visited the site in later years, small pieces of airplane aluminum, the size of a dollar bill and smaller, remained on the ground. Over the years, souvenir hunters, and Mother Nature, have removed all traces of the plane. If someone were to visit the site today, they would find nothing to indicate that a tragedy had once occurred there.

     Though time and Mother Nature have returned the site to its original condition, we should never forget the names of those who died there while in the service of their country. To that end, three bricks bearing the names of Lieutenant Saul Winsten, Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, and Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth were added to the Veterans Memorial in Deerfield Park in 2004.

memorial bricks

Bricks at the Smithfield Veterans Memorial at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

    In August & October of 2009, two separate memorials were dedicated to the three servicemen who lost their lives in the Wolf Hill plane crash. One was placed in Deerfield Park in the Greenville section of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the second was placed at the crash site in Gerogiaville. 

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash Aug. 5, 1943, Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash on Wolf Hill, Georgiaville, R.I., Aug. 5, 1943. (Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.)

 

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Saul Winsten's brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park  ceremony.

Saul Winsten’s brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park ceremony.

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. - August 2009

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. – August 2009

Warwick, R.I. – November 17, 1970

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 17, 1970 

     Shortly after 1 p.m. on November 17, 1970, a twin-engine Cessna 310 aircraft with a husband and wife aboard took off from T.F. Green Airport.  Just after takeoff the plane lost power in its left engine and the pilot made a left turn in an attempt to get back to the runway.  As he was doing so, the airplane came down in a neighborhood adjacent to the airport, where it skimmed the top of a tree located in front of 57-59 Kilvert Street.  It then glanced off a three-story house before slamming into another three-story home at 51 Kilvert Street and exploded into flame. 

     Inside 51 Kilvert Street, a 37-year-old mother lay sleeping with her 1-year-old son.  The crash set the room ablaze.  Her husband, who was out in front of the house at the time, ran in and rescued his wife and son, but the woman later died of her injuries.

     The occupants of the aircraft were pulled from the wreckage by firefighters, both were suffering from severe burns. 

     The flames spread to an adjacent house, and four firefighters were injured battling the blaze.  The burned homes were later torn down. 

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, and Providence Evening Bulletin, (unknown  dates – not recorded on clippings.)

     “Plane Crashes After takeoff At Green”

     “Spectators Come To View Floodlighted Plane Wreck”

     “Mother, Infant Pulled Out After Plane Hits R.I. Home”, November 18, 1970.

     “A Neighborhood Learns Horror”

     “One Of The Hazards…Now It’s Happened Here”

     “Experts Probing Plane Crash”

     “Burns Claim Woman; Home Hit By Plane”

     “Pilot’s Wife Quizzed, Condition Still Poor” 

     “Hurt Woman Questioned On Warwick Plane Crash”

 

 

 

 

 

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 24, 1966

Quonset Point Naval Air Station  – May 24, 1966

     On the night of May 24, 1966, Lieut. Cmdr. Bruce R. Richmond, 31, and Lieut. Stephen Losey, 37, were practicing landings and take offs at Quonset Point Naval Air Station when their twin-engine aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay.  Both men were killed. The type of aircraft was not stated.

     Lieut. Cmdr. Richmond is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.  To see a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com memorial #3427105.

     Lieut. Losey is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com memorial #49249517.   He was from New Jersey.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Two Navy Fliers Die In Crash”, May 25, 1966

     www.findagrave.com

Conimicut Light, Warwick, R.I. – July 30, 1964

Conimicut Light, Warwick, Rhode Island – July 30, 1964

    

U-10 Helio Courier U.S. Air Force Photo

U-10 Helio Courier
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of July 30, 1964, a flight of six Rhode Island National Guard Aircraft left Hillsgrove Airport, (Today known as T.F. Green Airport) for a two-and-a-half hour training flight.  The aircraft belonged to the 143rd Air Commando Group. 

     One of the aircraft, a U-10 Helio Courier with two men aboard developed engine trouble and attempted an emergency landing.  As the plane neared the Conimicut Lighthouse at Conimicut Point in Warwick, one witness said he could hear the engine “spitting and sputtering” as it crashed into the shallow water of Narragansett Bay between the lighthouse and the mainland.

     Both the pilot and navigator were killed.  The dead were identified as (Pilot) Captain Donald E. Leach, 31, of Cranston, R.I., and (Navigator) Major Alan Hall Jr., 39, of East Greenwich, R.I.      

     The aircraft was recovered the following day with the bodies of both men still inside.

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “2 RI Airmen Killed In Bay Plane Crash”, July 31, 1964, Pg. 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Recover Bodies Of 2 Guardsmen”, August 1, 1964 

Smithfield, R.I. – November 17, 2008

Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 17, 2008

     On the evening of November 17, 2008, a Piper PA-38, (N2316P) was approaching runway 33 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield, when it crashed in a wooded area about 2/3 of a mile short of the runway.  The plane exploded on impact killing both the pilot and his passenger.

     The dead were identified as (Pilot) Robert A. Zoglio Jr., 43, of Richmond, R.I., and Ronald Tetreault, 64, of Glocester, R.I.   

     The plane had left Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I. bound for North Central to practice landings and take-offs.    

     Sources:

     NSTB Report #ERA09FA060

     Providence Journal, “Two Killed In Plane Crash In Smithfield”, November 18, 2008, Section B, Pg. B1

     Providence Journal, “Experienced pilots died doing what they loved”, November 19, 2008, Pg. 1

    

 

The Lockheed Learstar Disaster – December 15, 1958

THE LOCKHEED LEARSTAR DISASTER

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – December 15, 1958

      One of Rhode Island’s worst civil aviation crashes occurred in the town of North Smithfield, Rhode Island during a snowstorm which claimed the lives of seven people. 

     At about 8:30 a.m., on December 15, 1958, a twin engine, Lockheed, Learstar, (Registration N37500) owned by the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Company took off from Linden, New Jersey, bound for Logan Airport in Boston.  The plane carried five passengers, all top executives for Johnson & Johnson, and a crew of two. 

     From Boston, the executives were to go on to Gloucester, Massachusetts, where the company operated its LePage Glue Division.  While en-route to Boston the plane ran into an unexpected snowstorm and was diverted by Logan officials to land in Beverly, Massachusetts.  When the aircraft arrived at Beverly, the crew was informed that they too were closed due to weather.  With no other option, the pilot set a course southward back to New Jersey.

     As the plane passed over the town of Franklin, Massachusetts, a town just to the north of the Rhode Island border, the pilot reported that one of the engines had died. This was the last radio transmission ever heard from the aircraft. 

     The plane continued south and passed over the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts, where  a man living on Pond Street later reported that he heard a plane overhead with an engine sputtering.

      The aircraft then passed over the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and then North Smithfield. The nearest airport at this point would have been North Central State Airport in Smithfield, about four miles away, and it was later speculated that the crew was attempting to reach the airport when the plane went down. 

     Although it was equipped with radar, the plane was flying in heavy snow, and the cloud ceiling was a mere 400 feet.  The pilots were in effect, “flying blind”, relying on instruments to get them to safe haven.   

      At 9:45, the Learstar plunged nose first into a swampy wooded area between Farnum Pike, (Route 104)  and Douglas Pike, (Route 7) below the old New Haven Rail Road tracks, about half a mile in from the road, and three-and-a-half miles short of the runway at North Central Airport. 

     A woman living on Slatersville Road heard the crash and called North Smithfield’s, Chief of Police, Joseph Freitas, to report that she thought a plane had crashed. 

     As a ground search got underway, a National Guard aircraft began searching overhead, and within a few minutes the wreckage was spotted, and the Guard plane began to circle to draw ground searchers to the site. 

     Chief Freitas was one of the first to reach the scene where he found one man still alive, lying with his lower extremities in a pool of icy water mixed with aviation fuel.  Rescue workers carefully pulled him free and laid him on dry land where he died shortly thereafter. 

     The cockpit containing the pilot and co-pilot had buried itself in the soft mud and was submerged under gasoline soaked water.  Firemen found four other bodies in the crumpled passenger compartment. The Reverend Thomas I. Myrick, pastor of Saint John’s Church in Slatersville, was on hand to administer last rites.  It took until 7:30 p.m. to recover the bodies of the crew. 

     The dead were identified as:

     The pilot, Alexander Sable of Metuchen, N.J.

     The co-pilot, Edward Luidcinaitis of Roselle, N.J..  

     Nelson A. Bergstend, age 45, of Linden, N.J.

     Ferdinand Liot, age 39, of Franklin Park, N.J.

     Stephen Baksal, age 44, of Scotch Plain, N.J.

     Raymond Buese, age 31, of South River, N.J.  

     Jesse Hackney, of Pleasentville, N.J. 

     Mr. Bergstend was wearing a broken wristwatch that stopped at 9:45.      

     Investigators later determined that the cause of the crash was ice formation in the carburetors of the engines. It was said that carburetor icing was a fairly common danger in a plane of this type.  Investigators believed the first engine failed due to icing, and the second failed afterward for the same reason. 

      This accident served as a lesson for all big business corporations when it came to transportation of top executives – not to transport everyone together in the same aircraft.  This way, if an accident did occur, the entire top management staff isn’t lost.  Today, many corporations fly top executives on separate flights for this reason.

     The area where the accident occurred is now occupied by a sand and gravel company. 

 Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Crippled Plane Sought In Area”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “…Engine Failure Seen”, December 15, 1958, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call,  “Investigators Seek Crash Solution”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Routine Flight Gives Hill Man 1st Crash View”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Air Crash Story Wrapped Up By Call While Presses Roll”, December 16, 1958

Woonsocket Call, “Carburetor Icing Seen Crash Cause”, December 1958

Providence Journal, “Pilot Cleared In Woon. Crash”, October 8, 1960, Pg. 5

Providence Journal, “Icing ‘Probable’ Cause of crash Which Killed 7”, February 20, 1961, Pg, 27

 

South Kingstown, R.I. – November 26, 1945

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – November 26, 1945

Worden’s Pond

   

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 26, 1945, Ensign Nelson Earl Carter, 22, was killed when the SB2C Helldiver (Bu. No. 65286) that he was piloting, crashed in Worden’s Pond during dive bombing practice.

     Ensign Carter’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Holland, Michigan for burial.  He’s buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Plot PH3-C-74-4.  For a photo of the grave, go to findagrave.com, Memorial # 49817091.    

     Ensign Carter had been a recipient of the Air Medal. 

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Archaeologist & Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com

Smithfield, R. I. – March 8, 1990

Smithfield, Rhode Island – March 8, 1990

      On the afternoon of March 8, 1990, five friends from Providence College met at North Central State Airport in Smithfield to go flying.  One of the group, Scott H. Lyons, 20, had a pilots license, and had been certified the day before for carrying passengers.  

     Lyons rented a two-seat Piper Tomahawk (N2603G) and took off around 1:00 p.m. with one passenger, his college roommate, Gregory D. Aucoin, 20, while the other three members of their group waited at the airport for their turn. 

     Shortly after takeoff, when the plane was about five miles from the airport, the engine began to sputter.  Two Smithfield Highway Department workers cutting brush in the area heard the sputtering and witnessed the plane go down. 

     The plane crashed in a wooded area of the Judson Farm at the end of Williams Road.  It didn’t burn on impact, but both men aboard were killed.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Plane Goes Down In Smithfield Woods”, March 9, 1990 Pg. 1A

     Providence Journal, “PC Students’ Flight Ended Lives Full Of Promise”, March 10, 1990, Pg. A1

     Journal Bulletin, “PC Roommates Die In Airplane Crash”, March 10, 1990, Pg. A1

Narragansett, R.I. – November 9, 1945

Narragansett, Rhode Island – November 9, 1945    

 

F4U Corsair National Archives Photo

F4U Corsair
National Archives Photo

     On November 9, 1945, Ensign William Edward Andrews, 23, was killed when the F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81327) he was piloting crashed on farm land off Boston Post Road in the town of Narragansett.  Further details of the accident are not available.

     Ensign Andrews was assigned to Fighter Squadron 81. (VF-81)

     His body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Georgia for burial.  He’s buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. 

     To see a photo of Ensign Andrews, go to Findagrave.com, Memorial #30436265.     

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #45-105   

Smithfield, R.I. – November 6, 1988

Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 6, 1988

     On November 6, 1988, a Cessna 152 II, (N5462B), carrying two people crashed in a field on Mann School Road in Smithfield killing both.  Shortly before the crash, the plane was seen making several low passes over the passenger’s home. 

     The dead were identified as (pilot) Harrison G. Chapman, 37, of Key Largo Florida, and (passenger) Lauren A. Sullivan, 35, of Smithfield. 

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Two Killed In “Pleasure Ride” Out Of North Central Airport”, November 7, 1988  

     NTSB report brief #NYC89FA021, microfiche # 39456

 

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

     On the night of June 24, 1944, the body of navy Lieutenant Edward Roy Sladek, 22, was found by the Coast Guard at Shagwong Point, in the town of Montauk, (Long Island) New York.  He had been missing since April 1st, when the aircraft he was aboard went down in the water off Block Island, R.I. 

     According to one news report, Sladek was one of “five or six” men aboard that aircraft when it crashed.    The unidentified plane was out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station in R.I.

     Sources:

     The East Hampton Star, “Navy Flyer Found”, June 29, 1944, Pg.4 

     Rhode Island Department Of Health death certificate

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Updated August 21, 2017

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On July 12. 1945, five navy fighter aircraft from Groton (Ct.) Naval Air Station were participating in a dive-bombing training flight over Little Narragansett Bay on the Connecticut/Rhode Island state line. All planes were scheduled to make eight runs at the target.  The first seven runs were completed without incident.  As the flight of aircraft were making their eighth run, Lt. (Jg.) Frankilton Nehemiah Johnson, 23, piloting an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81435), made his dive on the target from 8,000 feet and leveled off at 80 feet at the completion of his run.  It was at this time that his aircraft was seen to suddenly nose over and crash into the water of Little Narragansett Bay about 140 feet from shore.  The plane exploded on impact and he was killed.       

     Little Narragansett Bay is a body of water located on the Rhode Island/Connecticut state line where the towns of Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Ct. meet.  

     Johnson’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent home to New Orleans, La., for burial.  He’s buried in Garden of Memories, Metairie, Louisiana. (see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #119852076)   

     Lt. (Jg.) Johnson was assigned to Air Squadron 19, aboard the USS Lexington.   

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-64

     National Archives, AAR 21-45, TD450712RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.findagrave.com

Off Point Judith, R.I. – July 16, 1943

15 Miles Off Point Judith, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943

    Updated March 9, 2018         

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On July 16, 1943, a division of navy F6F-3 Hellcats were engaged in a “Fighter Director Practice” off southern Rhode Island when an army P-47 Thunderbolt made two passes at the group.  Both passes were made from out of the sun, and each time the P-47 came within 50 to 200 yards of the division of Hellcats. 

     According to the U.S. Navy accident report, (#44-7667), “Immediately following the second pass, Ensign Staab entered a high speed stall from an abrupt climbing turn, resulting in a vertical dive and progressive stall.”  Ensign Staab, age 23, was killed when his Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25848), then dove into the Atlantic Ocean 15 miles off Point Judith, R.I.

     Ensign Staab was assigned to Fighting Squadron 31, (VF0-31).

     His hometown is listed as Burlington, Vermont.  He’s buried in Kingston, New York.

     The army P-47 was from the 326th Fighter Group at Westover Field.  There is a notation in the report that the pilot was disciplined however, he is not identified.  

     Sources:

     Rhode Island Department Of Health, death certificate.

     U.S. Navy Accident Report, #44-7667, dated July 16, 1943

Richmond, R. I. – March 16, 1944

Richmond, Rhode Island – March 16, 1944

Updated June 28, 2017

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     At approximately 7:40 p.m. on the night of March 16, 1944, Ensign Herbert Leslie Woods, 22, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air station In Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night training flight.  The weather that evening was cloudy, with a 500 to 600 foot cloud ceiling, and poor visibility of less than a mile.

     Ensign Woods was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41008).

     Ensign Woods was last seen entering the clouds by those in the control tower.  At 7:46 p.m., an emergency IFF signal was received by the tower.  The signal lasted approximately three minutes before it stopped.  Afterwards Ensign Woods could not be contacted.

     The following morning the wreckage of Ensign Woods’s Hellcat was found next to a stream in a wooded area of the village of Kenyon, which is located within the town of Richmond, Rhode Island.  The plane hat crashed at high speed and Woods had been killed instantly.

     At the time of his death, Ensign Woods was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 79, VF(n)-79.  

     Ensign Woods was from Springfield, Illinois.  He’s buried in Camp Butler National Cemetery in Section 3, Site 809.  One can see a photo of his grave at the Camp Butler National Cemetery, site search, www.Findagrave.com, Memorial #2562708     

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Crash Report #44-12450 

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Larry Webster – Aviation Archaeologist and Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.Findagrave.com

Wickford Harbor, R.I. – June 25, 1953

Wickford Harbor, North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 25, 1953

     On the morning of June 25, 1953, an AD Skyraider took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station to take part in search and rescue operations taking place in Exeter and West Greenwich, Rhode Island.  The night before, two F2H Banshee fighter jets out of Quonset had collided in mid-air, and one pilot, Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, was still missing.

     (For more information about the mid-air collision, see “Exeter/West Greenwich – June 24, 1953” under “Rhode Island Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.)

     Just after take off the Skyraider developed engine trouble and crashed in Wickford Harbor.  The pilot, Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring, and the two-man crew, Joseph K. Keeple Jr., 21, of Pinehurst, Mass., and Donald F. Hart, 20, of Albany, N.Y., all escaped without injury.   

     Commander Baring related to the press that this was the 18th plane crash he’d survived during his career. 

     His commanding officer, Commander Robert M. Miner credited Baring with a perfect crash-landing and for keeping the aircraft away from populated areas.

Source: Providence Journal, “Searchers Fail To Find Trace Of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.  (200 men comb West Greenwich Crash Area In Vain; Three fliers unhurt in Wickford harbor plunge.)   

  

Exeter/West Greenwich, R.I. – June 24, 1953

Exeter/West Greenwich, Rhode Island – June 24, 1953  

Updated October, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,  (Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71 This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes  on the night of June 24, 1953.

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,
(Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71
This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes
on the night of June 24, 1953.

     On June 24, 1953, a flight of U.S. Navy F2H Banshee jets out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were on a night training mission over southern Rhode Island when two aircraft in the formation collided in mid-air.  The resulting flash and explosion was seen for miles by those on the ground.   

     The crash occurred at 19,000 feet near (over) the Exeter/West Greenwich town lines, and debris was scattered for several miles in all directions, most of it coming down in woodlands, but some of it on public roadways.      

     A large portion of one Banshee, (Bu. No. 126384) piloted by Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, 24, came down in Robin Hollow Pond, off Robin Hollow Road, in West Greenwich.  It was later recovered by the navy.

     It is believed Lt. Snipes was killed instantly in the collision.  The nose portion of the his aircraft up to the cockpit was torn away by the impact, and Snipes fell away still strapped to his ejection seat.   His body was later recovered still in the seat in a wooded area off Breakheart Hill Road in West Greenwich.

     The main portion of the other Banshee, (Bu. No. 126411) piloted by Lt. Jg. James J. Schollian, 23, came down in an area off  Austin Farm Road in the town of Exeter.  Schollian was able to successfully eject from his aircraft, and parachuted safely.    

     At the moment of impact Lieutenant Schollian’s cockpit was illuminated by the intense light of the explosion, and his aircraft was set ablaze.   As Snipes’ plane spun away in a flat spin, Schollian attempted to bail out, but discovered his ejection seat was not working.  Remembering his training, he released his seatbelt and literally floated up and out of his seat, then pushed himself out of the falling jet with his feet.  It took him several more seconds to locate the parachute D-ring, but he finally deployed the chute at about 10,000 feet.

     Hanging in the air, he watched his doomed aircraft continue on its fiery plunge to oblivion.  As he got closer to the ground he saw two cars stopped by the side of a road, and lit a signal flare, but it failed to gain any attention.  Prevailing winds carried him over heavy woodlands where he came crashing down through the treetops.  After assessing himself for injuries, he set out to find a road, but the woods were near pitch-dark, and he didn’t have a compass.  After stumbling around in the dark for awhile he came to a clearing next to a swamp and decided to light a signal fire.  After awhile a circling aircraft spotted the fire and led him out of the woods where he was found about three miles west of Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich.        

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes  aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)  National Archives Photo

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes
aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
National Archives Photo

      The flash of the mid-air collision was seen by those in the air-traffic control tower at the Quonset Naval Air Station, and within seconds their worst fears were confirmed as the flight leader contacted the tower.    As crash-rescue personnel were mobilized, hundreds of civilian curiosity seekers converged on the area clogging the roadways which hindered fire fighters battling numerous brush fires started by the falling debris, and search and rescue operations being conducted by the navy.  State and local police did their best to block access to the area, but the throngs of humanity were no match for the comparatively small contingent of law enforcement.   

     The dark night and poor visibility hampered search teams, and authorities had to deal with conflicting reports based on rumor and vague witness accounts.  It is therefore understandable why the following morning local newspapers erroneously reported that both pilots had been found, and that only one had suffered any injury. Unfortunately this was untrue.  While at the time the papers went to press Lieutenant Schollian had been located by searchers, Lieutenant Snipes was still missing. 

     As the sun came up on the morning of the 25th, a contingent of aircraft took off from Quonset NAS to conduct an aerial search of the vast wooded areas of Exeter and West Greenwich.  The search was partially delayed when one of the search aircraft developed engine trouble shortly after take-off and went down in Wickford Harbor.  Fortunately the crew escaped without serious injury, but some of the resources allocated to looking for Lieutenant Snipes had to be diverted to Wickford.  

     (That incident involved an AD Skyraider piloted by Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring.) 

     The body of Lieutenant Snipes was recovered on the morning of the 26th.   A memorial service for him was held the following Monday at the Quonset Chapel, and was attended by his squadron mates. 

     Jack Oliver Snipes was born October 1, 1928 in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Ransom Oliver, and Maude Elizabeth Snipes.  The family later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Jack attended local schools.  He attended North High School in Nashville from 1945-46, before transferring to East High School, also in Nashville.    

      Jack left high school during his senior year, and enlisted in the United States Navy on February 18, 1947.  After basic training in San Diego, California, he was sent to Aviation Fundamental School in in Jacksonville Florida, then on to Aviation/Aerial Photography School in Pensacola, Florida. From there he was assigned to Utility Squadron 10, (VU-10), stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a photographer.       

Ensign Jack O. Snipes
U.S. Navy

    While in the navy, Jack completed his high school studies and received his GED from East High School in 1948.  He later applied for and was accepted to pilot training school.  He began flight training on January 26, 1949 at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, and did extremely well.  After Pensacola, he was sent for advanced training at the naval air station in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was stationed from March thru September of 1950.  On September 20, 1950, he received his officer’s commission as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, as well as his navy pilot’s wings. 

     After being sent to Whiting Field in Florida for more advanced training, Ensign Snipes was assigned to Fighter Squadron 71, (VF-71), and transferred to Quonset Point, R.I., where he reported for duty on November 18, 1950.       

     In January of 1952, VF-71 was assigned to Carrier Group Seven, Atlantic Fleet, to conduct test flights of the Navy’s new F9F-5 Grumman Panther fighter jets equipped with various experimental engines to determine how the different engines would affect the operational performance of the aircraft in simulated combat conditions.   One can see the potential hazards connected with such an assignment.  Testing took place 24/7 under any and all types of weather conditions, because the information to be learned was considered vitally important to the on-going war effort in Korea. This testing period continued until March 1, 1952.

     For his participation in these test flights, Ensign Snipes received a letter of commendation in his navy personnel jacket which stated in part: “The Commanding Officer notes with pride that as a pilot attached to this command during the tests, you bravely and unselfishly participated in hazardous test flying.  Your excellent performance of duty reflected credit to the squadron.”     

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

  On May 14, 1952, VF-71 was transferred to the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard, (CV-31).  During this time period the squadron was flying F9F Panther jets. The Bon Homme Richard sailed into the Korean Theatre of Operations on June 22, 1952.  

     The following day Ensign Snipes participated in a coordinated air strike on a hydro-electric complex in North Korea for which he was later awarded the Air Medal with gold Combat Star.   

     His award citation reads as follows: “For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as a pilot of a jet fighter plane attached to Fighter Squadron Seventy One, during operations against enemy Communist Forces in North Korea on 23 June 1952, Ensign Snipes bravely and skillfully executed two bombing and strafing runs against Fusen number two hydro-electric power plant obtaining hits in the target area.  He inflicted serious damage to the installation in the face of enemy anti-aircraft fire and contributed materially in the complete destruction of this vital plant.  His outstanding courage and skillful airmanship were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service”   

     Between September 22, 1952, and December 12, 1952,  Ensign Snipes flew twenty combat missions over North Korea.

     According to fitness evaluations in Ensign Snipes’ navy personnel file, he was considered an excellent pilot and showed great leadership capabilities. He was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on October 17, 1952.             

     After serving aboard the Bon Homme Richard, VF-71 returned to duty at Quonset Point.  One week before his death Ensign Snipes had visited his sister in Nashville.  He’s buried in the Prospect Free Will Baptist Cemetery in Erwin, North Carolina.   To see photos of his grave, click here: www.findagrave.com

    Lieutenant (Jg.) James Schollian continued to serve in the Navy until his retirement in 1976 at the rank of captain.     

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row. Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.   U.S. Navy Photo - Click To Enlarge

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard
Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row.
Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.
U.S. Navy Photo – Click To Enlarge

     The F2H-3 Banshee was a Cold War era, single-seat fighter jet, designed by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation for the United States Navy. It was a large, well-armed, aircraft, measuring 44’, 10” in length, and 40’, 2” wide, capable of sailing through the sky at over 500 mph.  When fully loaded, it carried slightly more than eleven-hundred gallons of high octane aviation fuel, which could explain the massive fireball created when the collision occurred. 

     The word Banshee comes from Irish and Scottish folklore, and refers to a female spirit who is a harbinger of death.  It is said that banshees can attach themselves to a particular family, and when a member of that clan is about to die, the banshee will begin a melodic sorrowful moan foretelling the impending death.        

 

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee  undergoing restoration  at the Quonset Air Museum.

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee
undergoing restoration
at the Quonset Air Museum.

     In 2011, the Quonset Air Museum of Rhode Island acquired an F2H-3 Banshee in need of restoration.  Restoration was begun, and plans were underway to give it the same paint scheme and markings as the one flown by Lieutenant Snipes as a memorial to him.  Unfortunately, in March of 2015 a portion of the museum’s roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, and the building was closed to the public.  Then, for a variety of reasons, the museum was forced to permanently close in 2017.  Thus the project was never completed.     

     Update, October, 2107: The Quonset Air Museum Banshee has since been sold to a private individual who had the pieces transported to his property where he plans to continue the restoration.    

      The accident scattered debris from both aircraft over a wide area, and due to the rural nature of the towns of Exeter and West Greenwich, some of it was never recovered by the navy.  Over the years pieces have been found in the woods by hunters, hikers, and metal scrapers.       

A center-wing portion of the Quonset Air Museum F2H Banshee under restoration. Now in the possession of a private individual.

     According to a Providence Journal article dated 6-26-53, Navy crews buried the wreckage of Lieutenant Schollian’s Banshee “off Victory Highway where it fell to earth.”  It presumably lies there yet, waiting for the day when future development might bring it to light.  Those who find it may wonder how it came to be there.  Hopefully they will know of this story.     

Sources: 

Providence Journal, “2 Navy Jets Crash: Pilots Found, One badly Hurt”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, ”Searchers Fail To Find Trace of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.

Providence Journal, “Fire Believed Started By Jet Flier Is Under Control After 17 Hours”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 6

Providence Journal, “Body Of Missing Jet Pilot Found”, June 27, 1953.

Woonsocket Call, “Quonset Fliers Safe In Crash In Search For Missing Airman”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Jet Pilot’s Body Found In Woods In W. Greenwich”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 1

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 45

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 46

The Meridian Record Journal, “Pilot Hunted After Two Jets Crash In Air”, June 26, 1953.

Nashville Tennasean, “Nashville Pilot Sought After Mid-Air Crash” June 27, 1953 (Snipe’s mother and sister lived in Nashville at the time.)

Book, United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, by Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers, Funk & Wagnalls, 1968.

The Naval-Aviator Network, Capt. James J. Schollian, (1948-1976)

Information supplied by Lawrence Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian.    

June, 2017 – Copy of Lt. Jg. Snipes’ navy personnel record.

Newport, R.I. – November 4, 1951

Newport, Rhode Island – November 4, 1951 

    

U.S. Navy  Grumman F9F Panther U.S. Navy Photo - National Archives

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On Sunday, November 4, 1951, a flight of several U.S. Navy, Grumman F9F-5 Panther jets took off from Quonset Point for a routine training mission.  While over the Newport metropolitan area, one of the aircraft (Bu. No. 125269) suddenly began trailing “yellowish smoke” and loosing altitude.   

     The pilot, Ensign Ralph Anthony Lennon, 23, of Flushing, New York, elected to stay with the aircraft to maneuver it away from a populated area and aimed the plane towards the water near Easton’s Beach. 

     Witnesses on the ground reported that after trailing smoke, the plane suddenly burst into flame and began to break apart.  The tail section came down on top of a home at 77 Cottage Street while the main body of the plane came down on property at 396 and 428 Gibbs Avenue.  Cottage Street intersects with Gibbs Avenue, and the three locations are close to each other, and close to Easton Pond behind Easton’s Beach.

     Ensign Lennon was killed in the crash.  Had he not stayed with his aircraft it would have crashed in downtown Newport where the streets were crowded with people and traffic.  As it was, pieces of his jet rained down over an area a 1/2 mile from the crash site, with one piece reportedly narrowly missed a baby sleeping in its carriage.

     There were no reports of anyone on the ground being injured, and the debris that landed on homes didn’t start any fires. 

     Thousands of onlookers descended on the area, sifting through debris, trampling the scene, and hampering fire and rescue efforts. 

     The cause of the accident wasn’t immediately apparent.        

     Ensign Lennon was born October 9, 1928.  He graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx, N.Y., and the University of Iowa, before joining the navy in 1946.  He was a veteran of the Korean War, and at the time of his death was attached to VF-71, then stationed at Quonset Point.  He’s buried in Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. 

     Sources:

     Newport Daily News, “Navy To Probe Crash Of Quonset Jet Plane In City” November 5, 1951, Page 1

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Jet Plane Crash Spectators Give harrowing Stories Of Incident”, November 5, 1951, page 1.

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Salvage Crew Clears Scene Of Jet Crash”, November 6, 1951, page 3.

     www.Findagrave.com – Ralph Anthony Lennon

     

    

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942 

     At 3:15 p.m. on October 11, 1942, Aviation Radioman Stanley D Overfelt, 25, was killed when the aircraft he was on crashed in Narragansett Bay during dive bombing training.   No further details are available. 

     Mr. Overfelt was from Clarence, Missouri. According to his death certificate, he was assigned to VS-42.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-31

     Update: August 13, 2015.   What may be the same incident is mentioned in a New York Times snippet with no title, dated October 12, 1942, which stated that an airplane believed to have been carrying two men went down in Narragansett Bay.  No names were given.     

     Update: June 19, 2017

     Stanley D. Overfelt is buried in Maple Hills Cemetery, in Kirksville, Missouri.  Source: www.findagrave.com, memorial #59737610 

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

    

     On May 2, 1944, a TBM-1C Avenger, (25430) was taking off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station when a wing folded and the plane crashed into Narragansett Bay off the end of Runway 19. 

     The Avenger generally carried three men, and there was at least one casualty.  Lieut. (Jg. )William Hinson Gallagher, 22, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was killed.   He’s buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, in plot DX-121. 

     For photos of his gravesite go to the find-a-grave link below and click on “Search 121 grave records”.   www.findagrave.com    

     It is unknown at the time of this posting if there were other fatalities involved with this accident.

Sources:

Rhode Island Department Of health Death Records.

Find A Grave website www.findagrave.com

Larry Webster – Aviation Historian & Archeologist

 

 

 

Off North Kingstown, R.I. – June 28, 1942

Off North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 28, 1942

  

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 10:30 a.m. on June 28, 1942, army aviator (rank unknown) Robert M. Flanders, 24, was killed when the airplane he was piloting crashed at the water at the east end of Hope Island, which is located in Narragansett Bay, just off shore from the former Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown.   The type of aircraft and details of the accident are unknown.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-23  

    Update September 15, 2015:  Robert Flanders was a 2nd Lieutenant, and was from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The aircraft he was piloting was a P-40E (#40-440)

    Sources:

     New York Times, “4 Army Fliers Die In Ohio”, June 29, 1942.  (The article covered more than one plane crash.)

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist.

     Update March 2, 2016:   This accident occurred while Lt. Flanders, and 2nd Lt. David H. Brown were engaged in a mock aerial dogfight at 15,000 feet in their P-40 airplanes.  At one point, Lt. Flanders’ P-40 began to dive at high speed, reaching the speed of 400 mph.  At 8,000 feet he began to pull out of the dive at which point his plane exploded in mid-air. 

     A statement filed by Lt. Brown to Army investigators reads as follows:

     “Lt. Flanders and I were on a combat mission when his plane exploded and he met his death.

     We were on oxygen and fighting at 15,000 feet at this time.  Lt. Flanders rolled over on his back and started down in a split-S.  I immediately rolled over and followed him down.  As he started to pull out at about 8,000 feet, and traveling at approximately 400 mph, there was a terrific explosion and his plane went to pieces.”    

      The accident was also witnessed by at least three observers on Hope Island, all of whom basically stated that after the explosion the plane fell nose first into the water.

     It was the opinion of the accident investigation committee that the explosion originated in the reserve fuel tank, possibly caused by a portion of engine cowling being ripped loose from the force of the dive and cutting into the tank.  

     Both pilots were attached to the 66th Fighter Squadron then based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Lt. Flanders had obtained his pilots rating on May 29, 1942.

     Lt. Flanders was born June 23, 1917, and died just five days after his 24th birthday. He’s buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

     Sources: 

     United States Army Crash Investigation Report#42-6-28-8

     www.findagrave.com

     Updated March 9, 2016

     On June 12, 1942, sixteen days before his fatal accident, Lt. Flanders had a close call while flying another P-40 aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-36514).  On that date, he was returning to Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, after a routine training flight.  Just as he was landing, a strong gust of wind lifted the left wing, causing the right wing to touch the ground and send the plane into a 270 degree “ground loop”.  The aircraft suffered some damage, but Lt. Flanders was unhurt.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-6-12-32, dated June 26, 1942.

    

  

East Providence, R.I. – January 12, 1943

East Providence, Rhode Island – January 12, 1943

Updated December 29, 2015

    

U.S. Navy SBD auntless National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy SBD auntless
National Archives Photo

     At 3:00 p.m. on January 12, 1943, two U.S. Navy SBD-4 Dauntless aircraft were returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a patrol/photographic  flight when they encountered snow squalls over the Providence metropolitan area and were forced to make emergency landings. 

     One aircraft (Bu. No. 06925) attempted to land in a field near St. Mary’s Seminary on Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence, and in the process collided with a tree and flipped over.  The pilot, Ensign John Robert Jasper, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, was killed, and his companion, Photographer 3C, Ollen Amay Stevens, 26, of  Detroit, Michigan, was seriously injured.

     St. Mary’s Seminary is today known as St. Mary’s Bay View Academy located at 3070 Pawtucket Avenue.  

    The second aircraft made a hard landing in another field about a quarter of a mile away.  The pilot, Ensign William E. McCarthy, 23, of Mansfield, Mass., and his companion, Seaman Apprentice Edward Goumond, 20, of Johnston, R.I., were slightly injured.      

     Ensign Jasper had just celebrated his 22nd birthday twelve days earlier on December 30th.   His body was brought to Quonset Naval Air Station In North Kingstown, Rhode Island in preparation for burial. He’s buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Afton, Missouri.  To see a picture of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see Memorial # 47782542. 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #43-17

     Larry Webster, R. I. Aviation Archaeologist & Historian

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Pilot Killed In Crash Upstate”, January 13, 1943, page 12

    

Glocester, R. I. – February 22, 1981

Glocester, Rhode Island – February 22, 1981 

     On February 22, 1981, two men took off from Franklin Airport near Williamsburg, Virginia, bound for Bedford, Massachusetts, when they ran into fog and clouds over New England.  While over the Glocester area, the aircraft crashed on a wooded hilltop overlooking Spring Grove Pond, on the east side of Spring Grove Road.   

     Both pilot and passenger were able to extricate themselves from the wreck before police and fire arrived, and were transported to Fogarty Hospital in North Smithfield for non-life-threatening injuries.

     The aircraft, a Piper Cherokee PA-28 (N5248L) was a total loss.   

Sources: 

Rhode Island State Police Report – Chepachet Barracks #5-81  

Providence Journal, “2 Survive Chepachet Plane Crash” February 23, 1981   

 

Jamestown, R. I. – July 1, 1976

Jamestown, Rhode Island – July 1, 1976

Off Beavertail Light

     As part of America’s 1976 bicentennial celebration, a flotilla of tall ships comprising sailing vessels from around the world made their way to the United States and down the east coast.   On July 1, 1976, after visiting Newport, the ships left Rhode Island for New York.  As they were passing for review just off the coast of Jamestown near Beavertail Light, two private aircraft narrowly missed having a mid-air collision.   As one aircraft flew on, the other was seen going down into the water about 50 yards off the eastern shore of Beavertail Park.  It sank immediately and no survivors were seen in the water.

     The downed aircraft, a Piper PA-28, (N9184K) was piloted by Charles Kramos, of Barrington, R.I.  His body was later recovered by divers.  The other aircraft was not identified.

     Sources:

     (Meriden Ct.) The Morning Record, “Plane Crashes While Circling Ship Parade”, July 2, 1976

     (New London, Ct.) The Day, “Plane Crash Mars Start Of Tall Ships”, July 2, 1976, Pg. 19    

Jamestown, R. I. – August 1, 1968

Jamestown, Rhode Island – August 1, 1968

     On August 1, 1968, a single engine Cessna flying over Jamestown struck a 600 foot radio antenna near Beavertail Light.  It then crashed and burned.  The pilot and two passengers aboard were killed, but not identified in the newspaper.

     The antenna belonged to the U.S. Navy, and had been put into operation less than three months earlier on May 22.      

Source: Woonsocket Call, “”Trio Killed As Light Plane Hits Jamestown Guy Wire”, August 1, 1968, Pg. 1 

Westerly Airport – June 19, 1965

Westerly Airport – June 19, 1965

Westerly, Rhode Island

     On June 19, 1965, a small plane with two men aboard crashed while attempting an emergency landing at Westerly Airport.  Both men were killed.

     The dead were identified as (pilot) Robert White, 25, of Stratford, Ct., and Herman Stephens of Moosup, Ct.. 

     Witnesses said the planes engine could be heard “sputtering” on approach.  In May of 1966, the Civil Aeronautics Board released the finding of its investigation.  “An inspection revealed low compression of the No. 3 cylinder with appreciable leakage of the No. 3 intake valve…From the overall evidence it was concluded that a power failure did occur.”    

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Power Failure Blamed For RI Plane Crash”, May 9, 1966, Pg. 1  

Smithfield Airport, R.I. – August 25, 1940

Smithfield Airport, Smithfield, Rhode Island – August 25, 1940

     On August 25, 1940, Stanley G. Smith, 21, of Woonsocket, crashed while practicing take-offs and landings at the Smithfield Airport.  His aircraft landed upside-down in an apple orchard about 275 yards from the end of the grass runway.  The plane, a 1937 Continental Cub Monoplane (NC-20012) was a total wreck, but fortunately Smith escaped with only minor injuries.   Undaunted by his brush with death, he climbed into another airplane and flew again a few minutes later!

     The former Smithfield Airport was located where Bryant University stands today.  The runway was located near the present-day football stadium.  The airport opened in 1932, and remained in operation into the 1950s, and should not be confused with present-day North Central State Airport, which is located in Smithfield, R. I., and is sometimes referred to as the Smithfield Airport.    

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Woonsocket Flier Escapes Serious Injury As Plane Crashes Near Smithfield Airport.” August 26, 1940

       

North Smithfield, R. I. – May 19, 1959

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 19, 1959

 

F-89 Scorpion U. S. Air Force Photo

F-89 Scorpion
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On May 19, 1959, two U. S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion jets attached to the 58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were dispatched from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to intercept an unidentified aircraft that appeared on air defense radar.  The flight was actually an unannounced drill.  Such drills were common, one air command would send a plane into another air command’s air space to test readiness and proficiency.

     The crew of one F-89 consisted of the pilot, Captain Arthur Canella, 29, and his radar observer, Lieutenant Robert J. Scearce Jr., 26.  Once airborne, Canella’s F-89 was designated the radio call sign, “Kilo November Nine”, and the other “Kilo November Ten”.  Even though they were scrambled out of Massachusetts, they were put in radio contact with the New York Air Defense Sector which was using the call sign “Occasion”. 

      Ironically, Lieutenant Scearce wasn’t scheduled to be on this particular flight.  He was supposed to be relieved at the end of his shift by another radar observer, but when the man showed up he asked Scearce to cover for him for an hour or so until he could register his car.  Scearce agreed, and thirty minutes later the scramble horn sounded.

      As the Scorpions sped through the upper atmosphere at 30,000 feet on an interception course, both jets found themselves flying in thick clouds, or “popeye” in Air Force jargon, and were forced to fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).  Canella and Scearce, (Kilo November Nine) began closing in on the “target” using their on-board radar, while Kilo November Ten was positioned a few miles away serving as the surveillance aircraft per instructions from Occasion.  The following dialogue leading up to the accident is taken from a radio transcript submitted with the official Air Force Crash Investigation Report.  (59-5-19-2) 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Nine, your heading is two eight zero, your target, thirty five port now twelve miles.  Do you have a contact?”  

NINE: “Rog, we have a contact.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, Contact.” 

After a few moments of radio traffic between Occasion and the other aircraft: 

NINE: “Zero Nine has a Judy.” 

OCCASION: “Judy for zero nine.  Investigate, full I.D. please.” 

NINE: “Zero nine.” 

A few moments later: 

OCCASION: “Ten, nine is now a mile and a half behind the target, you hold them both the port side twenty five degrees at fourteen to thirteen miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, ten” 

OCCASION: “Ten, they’re in ten miles.  Do you have a contact?”  (Occasion was informing ten that nine and the target were now within ten miles of his aircraft and asking if he had them on radar.)  

TEN: “Negative, ten seems to be bent here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger ten, let’s come port two eight zero degrees that’ll place them fifteen to twenty your port side at seven to eight miles.” 

TEN: “Roger two eight.” 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you Victor Fox now?” (Asking if Nine was now above the cloud cover and flying on Visual Flight, (Victor Fox), Rules.) 

TEN: “Roger, we’re on top at thirty seven.” (The report lists ten as answering, but nine was asked the question.  This could be a typo.) 

OCCASION: “Ten, your heading two seven zero, the target will be your two thirty position twelve miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, understand, two thirty at twelve.  Do you have a stranger passing about twelve o’clock at four or five miles?”  (Apparently the aircraft’s radar was picking up another plane and was asking if Occasion had it on their radar.)  

OCCASION: “Ten, that’s negative, you have a stranger off your starboard side at one thirty at fourteen.  I have no stranger that neck of your position.”  

OCCASION: “Ten, I now have a stranger in your heading of two seven zero in your ten o’clock position at six.” 

After some course correction instructions between Occasion and Ten, Occasion checks on Nine. 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you still popeye?” 

NINE: “That’s affirm, I think we are going to get him soon here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine.” 

OCCASION: “Ten, what state fuel?” 

TEN: “Roger, ten has ten thousand pounds, oxygen sweet.” (10,000 lbs. of fuel and plenty of oxygen to breathe due to the altitude.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, ten continue at gate your pigeons home plate zero seven zero degrees at forty five.” (“gate your pigeons” – Air Force slang for use afterburner for maximum power.) 

TEN: “Roger.  Forty-five starboard twenty four.” 

NINE: “It’s a B-47 type aircraft, I’ll pull in and get numbers.”  (The pilot was required to get the serial number on the tail of the target aircraft as proof they had identified it.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, we’re standing by.” 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, starboard three-three zero.” 

TEN: “Roger three-three.” 

NINE: “Zero nine is breaking it off.  I’ll give you the numbers here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, nine break port – port one eight zero degrees the hard way.  I’ll join ten up with you.”  

NINE: “I’ve already broken starboard, I’d had to break into the aircraft to break                               port.” 

     This was the last radio transmission received from Kilo November Nine.      

     Canella and Scearce had broken to starboard, and unknowingly began heading almost straight down due to the lack of visual reference points.  The aircraft began picking up speed, and then broke the sound barrier, something it was not designed to do.  When it finally broke free of the clouds the situation became apparent, and the crew was forced to eject.  

     The Plexiglas canopy flew off as explosive charges under the crews’ seats blew them free of the cockpit.  For the two men, hitting the slipstream at 700 mph was like being slammed into a brick wall. Both injured their shoulders in the bail out leaving them incapable of controlling their parachutes as they descended.   

     Meanwhile, those at Air Defense Command began to realize something was wrong.  Both Occasion and Kilo November Ten tried to radio Nine, but got no response.  Occasion reported to Ten that they had lost Nine on radar.  

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, your Nine should now have gone off  your starboard side.  His last position that I had him was about fifteen your port side seven miles.”   

TEN: “Roger, you still have no paint on him?” 

OCCASION: “Negative, I’m not painting his parrot, (not on radar) I lost him, you heard the last transmission that he made to us as he turned starboard.” 

TEN: “Roger, you want to clear me down through this stuff, (the clouds) I’ll drop on down here a little bit lower.” 

OCCASION:  “Ten that negative, be advised we’re over land and if anything did                             happen to Nine, no sense taking you down there too.”  (Kilo November Ten was the given instructions to return back to Otis AFB.) 

     The men bailed out over the city of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Many on the ground who witnessed the parachutes deploy first thought it was all part of a stunt connected to the upcoming Madi Gras celebration.       

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,  at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.   The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,
at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.
The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

     Lieutenant Scearce landed hard on the roof of the U.S. Rubber Company at 85 Fairmont Street,   suffering from multiple serious injuries connected to the bailout.  

      Employees of the plant climbed to the roof using a fire escape.  Dorothy Kane, the industrial nurse for the company, began administering first aid while police and firemen converged on the area.  Scearce was transported to Woonsocket Hospital where he stayed for the next eleven days.        

      Meanwhile, Captain Canella landed in Harris Pond next to the Precious Blood Cemetery in northern Woonsocket.  Looking down during his descent he saw 17-year-old Roland Ruge working in the cemetery and began calling for help. The wind carried him across the cemetery and straight into Harris Pond where he became tangled in the cords of his parachute.   Acting quickly, Roland dove into the chilly water and swam 200 feet from shore to reach Canella.  Roland struggled to pull the injured flyer to shore while keeping his head above water.  As he neared shore someone threw him a rope. 

     Both Canella and Ruge were transported to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.  While the captain was admitted for his injuries, Roland was treated for hypothermia and released.   

    While the crew of the F-89 came down in Woonsocket, the aircraft continued down into the neighboring town of North Smithfield, about 200 yards west of Greenville Road, (Rt. 104), at a point about three-tenths of a mile south of where Providence Street intersects with Smithfield Road.  The plane exploded in a massive fireball. 

     The wreckage at the crash site was scattered in a swath a half-mile long and roughly 300 feet wide.  Both engines were found intact approximately 300 feet past where the initial impact occurred.  The fires burned hot enough to melt the aluminum from the plane.  In one area, it was reported that the melted aluminum remained liquid until the firemen cooled it with water from their hoses. 

     The ejection seat belonging Lt. Scearce was later recovered by on Wright’s Farm on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, which is several miles away from where the air-crew parachuted to earth. 

     The Scorpion involved in this crash was an F-89 J, serial number 53-2621A.   

     While the aircrew lay recuperating at Woonsocket Hospital, Roland Ruge was hailed a hero by the Air Force for saving Captain Canella’s life.  Roland later received an official award from the Air Force and was given a tour of Otis Air Force Base.  While being given the tour, he was able to view the remains of the wrecked F-89, and was presented with the cockpit compass as a keepsake.     

Sources:

United States Air Force Crash Investigation Report #59-5-19-2

Woonsocket Call, “Two Bail Out Safely As AF Jet Crashes In North Smithfield”, May 19, 1959.

Providence Journal, “2 Airmen Hurt Parachuting”, May 20, 1959, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Pilot Blames Going Too Fast”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Plane Crashes In Rhode Island”, May 20, 1959   Cape Cod Standard Times, “Explosion Of Otis jet Being Probed”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Investigation Is Continuing”, May 21, 1959

Woonsocket Call, “AF, Pilot’s Wife Pour Thanks On Hero Ruge”, May 21, 1959

Providence Journal, “Gathering Up Of Fighter Pieces Begins”, May 21, 1959, Pg. 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smithfield, R. I. – February 4, 1977

Smithfield, Rhode Island – February 4, 1977

Nadeau Farm, Limerock Road

     Shortly before 11:30 a.m. on February 4, 1977, a Cessna 150-L (N6756G) made a run over North Central State Airport at an altitude of only 200 feet.  (The normal height for a run at the airport is 800 feet.) Runway workers who saw the plane go by noted it didn’t make a turn to land, and considered the possibility that it may have been involved in an accident.  They drove to the end of the runway, and then along the tree line, but after finding nothing, returned to their work figuring the pilot had decided not to land.  Unknown to everyone at the time was that the plane had crashed into a livestock shed on the farm of Edward Nadeau on Limerock Road. 

     The accident was discovered by Mr. Nadeau when he went out to feed his cattle.  Rescue personnel responded, and found one man, flight instructor Steven Nottell, 30, of Cranston, R. I., still alive and transported him to Fogarty Memorial Hospital in North Smithfield, where he was listed in critical condition.  Another man, student pilot Paul D. Gurette, 24, of North Kingstown, R. I., was dead at the scene.  

     Officials ruled out engine trouble as no distress call had been received, and theorized the plane may have stalled while attempting to turn back towards the airport.  It landed nose-down, with the tail sticking upwards out of the shed.

     On February 8th, it was reported that officials suspected a second aircraft may have been involved, and that a possible minor mid-air collision may have occurred.  This idea was based on some un-explained traces of paint found on the fuselage, and that someone reported another Cessna had taken off from the airport shortly before the accident.  However, this theory was later discounted.   

     On February 17th, it was reported that Steven Nottell was still in a coma, and had not regained consciousness since the crash, and investigators said they still hadn’t determined a cause for the accident. 

     On March 6, 1977, it was reported that Mr. Nottell had passed away, and never regained consciousness.

     Sources:    

     Woonsocket Call, “Man Killed, 1 Critical, In Smithfield”, February 4, 1977.    

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Survivor Critical”, February 5, 1977.

     Providence Journal, “Flight Teacher Still Critical”, February 6, 1977, Pg. B-15.

     Woonsocket Call, “Prober Suspects Midair Scrape In Plane Crash”, February 8, 1977

     Providence Journal, “Second Plane Eyed As Cause Of Fatal Crash”, February 8, 1977, Pg. B-1.    

     Providence Journal, “Aviation Officials Discount 2nd Plane”, February 9, 1977, Pg. B-4.

     Providence Journal, “Air Crash Victim Still In Coma After 12 Days”, February 17, 1977, Pg. B-13.

     Providence Journal, “Second Air Crash Victim Dies”, March 6, 1977, Pg. B-15.

       

 

    

Lincoln, R. I. – July 24, 1971

Lincoln, Rhode Island – July 24, 1971

     In the early morning hours of July 24, 1971, two men took off from North Central State Airport in Smithfield, R.I. for a practice flight.  The pilot, Robert R. Rogers, 32, of North Providence, R.I., was flying with one passenger, Pasquale J. Petrarca, 28, of Providence.  At about 2:40 a.m. while circling the airport, the aircraft suddenly went down in a wooded area about a quarter of a mile from the airport.  Both men were killed instantly.

     The airport is located in Smithfield, R.I., but the aircraft came down in the town of Lincoln, R.I.  The airport sits on the town line.

     The aircraft involved was a Cessna 172-K  (N84446)  

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Lincoln Plane Crash Kills 2”, July 25, 1971

Smithfield, R. I. – August 19, 1970

Smithfield, Rhode Island  – August 19, 1970

Updated July 6, 2017

     At 9:35 p.m., on August 19, 1970, an single-engine Ercoupe Model E, (N94832), took off from runway 23 at North Central State Airport in Smithfield.   According to witnesses, shortly thereafter, the plane made two left turns, as if the pilot was attempting to land back on the runway.   Then the plane suddenly exploded in mid-air and nose-dived into a wooded area off Lime Rock Road.  The lone pilot did not survive.    

     One theory considered by investigators was that the pilot had experienced engine trouble.   

     Sources: 

    Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crash Victim Believed Johnston Man”, August 20, 1970, Pg. 1  

     Providence Journal, “Man Killed In Burning Plane Crash”, August 20, 1970 (with photo)

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed As Plane Explodes, Crashes In Smithfield Woods”, August 20, 1970, page 2 (with photo)

North Central Airport – July 19, 1952

North Central Airport – July 19, 1952

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     North Central State Airport, located in the northeast corner of Smithfield, Rhode Island, opened in December of 1951.  Several months later the first aviation related fatality at the airport occurred there.

     On July 18, 1952, Clinton Corey, 31, made an emergency landing at North Central Airport after the Piper Cub he was piloting developed engine trouble.  The aircraft was owned by E. W. Wiggins Airways of Norwood, Massachusetts, which Corey worked for.  He notified the company of the situation, and arrangements were made to leave the plane overnight to be repaired the following day.

     On the morning of July 19th, Corey returned with William Coullahan, another Wiggins employee, in another Wiggins aircraft.  Both men thoroughly went over the aircraft Corey had been flying the day before, and by 3:30 p.m. they deemed it ready for a flight back to Norwood. 

     Coullahan climbed aboard the plane they had been working on, while Corey agreed to fly the other one.  Coullahan was to take off first, and then Corey would follow, and both would stay together while en-route back to Norwood.       

     As Coullahan took off, he completed a 200 foot circle at the end of the field before suddenly crashing in a cow pasture just beyond the airport.  Coullahan was taken to Roger Williams Hospital in Providence where he died the following day.

     Coullahan, 29, of Westwood, Mass. was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II where he served in the Pacific Theatre.  He was survived by his wife Florence Mae. 

Sources:

Providence Journal, “Mass.. pilot Injured When Plane Falls Near Smithfield Airport”, July 20, 1952, Pg. S1  

Providence Journal, “Mass. pilot Dies After R.I. Crash”, July 21, 1952, Pg. 20

Woonsocket Call, Photo with caption. July 21, 1952, Pg. 5

Charlestown, R.I. – April 17, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 17, 1944

Great Swamp

Updated July 8, 2017 

 

Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On April 17, 1944, a flight of four F6F-3 Hellcats left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a familiarization training flight.   During the flight the aircraft flew in a line of four, in a “follow the leader” type of pattern.  It was during a phase of the exercise when the aircraft were changing positions in the formation that a mid-air collision between two of the aircraft occurred.  Both aircraft, (Bu. No. 40345), piloted by Ensign Stephen L. Smith, 21, and (Bu. No. 66034), piloted by Lieutenant Robert C. Stimson, 27, crashed and exploded in a wooded portion of the “Great Swamp” area of Charlestown.  Neither pilot survived.

     Ensign Stephen Luther Smith was from of St. Andrews, Florida. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Panama City, Florida.  (See www.findagrave.com, memorial #32844142)

     Lieutenant Robert Charles Stimson was from of Shelby, Ohio, and was survived by his wife. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Shelby.  To read more about Lt. Stimson, and to see photographs of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial 73196817.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records       

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-12263

Westerly, R. I. – March 4, 1950

Westerly, Rhode Island – March 4, 1950

     On March 4, 1950, two civil aircraft, a Cessna 140, and a Cessna 170, collided in mid-air about a mile-and-a-half off the shore of the Misquamicut section of Westerly and went down in the water.  Each aircraft carried two people; each a flight student and their instructors.

     The Coast Guard was called to employ divers in the search for the aircraft.  Debris from both planes was later washed ashore, confirming that neither plane made it to shore after the collision. 

     As the search continued, many spectators lined the beaches despite the cold weather.  Some doubted the planes would be found.  The Providence Journal reported in part,  “Westerly residents recalled yesterday that during World War II some half-dozen Navy planes had crashed in approximately the same area as the two light craft Saturday, and that neither the planes nor the pilots ever were found. They attributed this to the existence of a rock ledge some distance offshore which deflects the strong tides of the vicinity and tends to wash objects on the bottom out to sea rather than towards shore.”    

     Those aboard the Cessan 170 were identified as (pilot) William A. McCormac, 39, and Lester Silvers, 26. 

     Those aboard the Cessna 140 were identified as (pilot) Reginald Delagrange, 31, and Arthur E. Smith, 25.

     Sources:

Providence Journal, “Divers To Seek 2 Aircraft In Which Four Lost Lives” March 6, 1950, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Four Feared Dead In Crash Of Planes”, March 6, 1950 

 

    

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island

     On September 8, 1949, Ensign Henry J. Harling, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y. was piloting a Grumman Bearcat at 25,000 feet over the ocean when his aircraft caught fire.  Witnesses on boats reported seeing a plane trailing smoke crash into the water off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island.  Planes and rescue boats were immediately launched to search for Ensign Harling, but nothing was found.

     Source: New York Times, “Navy Pilot Dives In Sea” , September 9, 1949 

Block Island Sound, R.I. – July 13, 1944

Block Island Sound, Rhode Island – July 13, 1944

5 miles off Charlestown, R.I.

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     Ensign Gerald Vivian Brosteaux was killed during a night training flight July 13, 1944 when the F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. #42254), he was piloting crashed in the water five miles off Charlestown, Rhode Island.

     Ensign Brosteaux was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 102 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  He’s buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego OSA Site 25-A.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com #67092141   

Smithfield Airport – May 17, 1947

Smithfield Airport – May 17, 1947

Smithfield, Rhode Island

     On May 17, 1947, pilot Charles J. Kirby, 34, of Cranston, suffered critical injuries when he undershot the grass runway at Smithfield Airport and crashed his WWII surplus monoplane through a stone wall.   He was transported to Roger Williams Hospital in Providence. 

     The Smithfield Airport opened in 1932, and once occupied the land now owned by Bryant University.  The airfield was located where the Bryant football stadium stands today.  Smithfield  Airport no longer exists, and should not be confused with North Central State Airport, which is still an active airport in the town of Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Men Escape Without Injuries As Plane Crashes In Cumberland”, May 26, 1947.  This article focused on a plane crash in Cumberland, R. I. which occurred on May 25, 1947, but mentioned that the Cumberland accident was the third aviation accident for the month of May in Rhode Island.  One of the other two accidents mentioned was the one in Smithfield at the Smithfield Airport on May 17th.  

 

South Kingstown, R.I. – May 31, 1944

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – May 31, 1944

Worden’s Pond

     

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 11:30 a.m. on May 31, 1944, Lt. Jg. Maxwell Michaux Corpening, 24, was killed when the U.S. Navy F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58317), he was piloting crashed in Worden’s Pond during a training flight.   

     Lt. (jg.) Corpening  was part of a flight of seven Hellcats practicing dive bombing techniques.  According to the U.S. Navy Accident Report, after the fourth dive, the formation was joined by “three strange planes” that were “seen to dive from above and maneuver in weaving stern attacks on the Hellcats, who were in extended column formation.  The flight leader continued to circle and climb as any further bombing runs would have been inadvisable while the other planes were mixed in the formation.”

     The “strange planes” are not identified, however their actions led to the breakup of the formation, which led to a mid-air collision between Lt. (jg.) Corpening’s aircraft and another Hellcat.  The other Hellcat was able to land safely at Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field.     

Sources:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-44697, dated May 31, 1944

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.  (Many navy deaths during WWII were recorded in North Kingstown, (Not South Kingstown) because Quonset Point NAS was located in North Kingstown.)   

 

Lincoln, R. I. – December 18, 1946

Lincoln, Rhode Island – December 18, 1946

     On December 18, 1946, William E. Ouger, 19, took off from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in a Ercoupe monoplane  bound for Hillsgrove Airport in Warwick, R.I.    As he was passing over northern Rhode Island, he noticed that his aircraft was very low on fuel, so he began looking for a place to land.  He spotted Clarke’s Field in Albion section of Lincoln, R. I., and attempted to land there, but he overshot the field and crashed in the middle of the intersection of Manville and Contrexeville Roads.  Ougar crawled out of the wrecked airplane virtually unharmed.

     The airplane was owned by the Connecticut Aviation Company.   

     Source:

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane crashes On Albion Rd., Pilot Uninjured”, December 18, 1946

Woonsocket, R. I. – August 22, 1946

Woonsocket, Rhode Island – August 22, 1946

Barry Memorial Field

     On the afternoon of August 22, 1946, a U.S. Navy OY-1 training aircraft, (120461) took off from Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station with two men aboard.  The pilot was identified as John Cote, of Belmont, Mass., and the passenger as Dr. Leonard P. Johnke. 

    Shortly before three o’clock, while the plane was over North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the engine began skipping and loosing power.  Cote began looking for a place to land, and saw Barry Memorial Field on the Woonsocket/North Smithfield town line.   As the plane lost altitude it barely missed the power lines of the New England Power Company on Greenville Road. 

     As they came upon the field they discovered that there was a youth baseball game in progress.  Sticking their heads out of the airplane they began shouting warnings for the players to get out of the way, but the boys just stood transfixed.  Seeing that the boys weren’t getting out of the way, Cote gave the plane full throttle and had just enough power to swoop low over their heads.  At the far end of the field he attempted to turn the plane around, and as he did so, nosed into the field.      

     Besides the players and spectators, the crash was witnessed by two Rhode Island state troopers who happened to be a block away at Park Square when the accident happened.  They transported Cote and Johnke to Woonsocket Hospital in the back of their patrol car to be treated for non life-threatening injuries. 

     This was not the first time an aircraft had landed in Barry Field.  On June 27, 1934, a Greenfield, Mass. couple en-route from Greenfield to Boston got lost in foggy weather due to a malfunctioning compass.  While trying to orient themselves, they came upon Woonsocket, and landed at Barry Field to get their bearings.  

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “”Plane Crashes At Barry Field; Two Injured”, August 22, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Victims Leave Hospital”, August 24, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Aviator Lands At Barry Field Here To Get Bearings”, June 28, 1934.

 

 

Charlestown, R. I. – March 8, 1946

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 8, 1946

       

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On March 8, 1946, Ensign Clinton Graham Thornton was piloting an SB2C-5 Helldiver, (Bu. No. 89304) on a training flight with five other aircraft.  The aircraft were practicing dive-bombing techniques, and Thornton’s aircraft was in the number 2 position in a line of six. 

     The flight leader was executing a series of maneuvers with the other five planes following behind.  At one point Thornton’s Helldiver spun out of control and crashed about 2,000 feet north-east of a church belonging to the Narragansett Indian Tribe.  Ensign Thornton was unable to bail out and was killed.

     Ensign Thornton was based at Quonset Point, assigned to VT-74

     Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist      

West Greenwich, R.I. – April 24, 1946

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – April 24, 1946 

     On April 24, 1946, two navy F4U Corsairs on a training flight out of Quonset Point NAS were involved in a mid-air collision over West Greenwich.  Moments later, the pilot of one plane bailed out.  His Corsair, (81416), came down onto a house and exploded, killing a mother and her 2-year-old son.   

     Despite a damaged wing, the pilot of the other Corsair, (81312), managed to make it back to the Quonset Naval Air Station. 

     Both planes were assigned to VBF-82.

     The dead were identified as Mrs. Eva Parenteau, 30, and her son Raymond.   Mrs. Parenteau’s other two children, Phillip, 9, and Joseph, 8, were playing in a nearby yard at the time and weren’t injured.   

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Mother, Baby Killed, Plane Crash Probed”, April 25, 1946, Pg. 1 

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

     On September 1, 1944, Lt. Charles W. Turner took off from  Hillsgrove Army Air Field in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (42-8666) for a routine training flight.  At some point the aircraft developed engine trouble and Turner was forced to make a belly landing in the water about 3/4 of a mile off Conimicut Point, between the Conimicut and Pomham light houses.

     As the plane sank, Turner scrambled out and inflated his life vest which kept him afloat in the chilly water.  As luck would have it, he landed near a boat with two teenagers inside, Amy Heddenberg, 15, and William Smythe, 16, who quickly rescued the downed airman.  

     Turner was brought ashore at the foot of Stokes Street in Warwick, where he was met by Warwick police patrolman Albert Izzi who brought the pilot back to Hillsgrove.  Turner was standing before his commanding officer before rescue parties from Hillsgrove had reached the shore. 

     The plane was wrecked, but Turner was unhurt.   

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Army Pilot Unhurt In Crash Into Bay”, September 2, 1944, Pg. 3

    

Charlestown, R.I. – May 14, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 14, 1944

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 14, 1944, Ensign James Patrick Gannon, 22, of Jersey City, N.J., was flying an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42389)  practicing dive bombing at Worden’s Pond in Charlestown, R.I., when according to a witness, “something white” fell away from his plane.  The Hellcat then went into a roll and dove into the ground.  Gannon was killed instantly. 

     The cause of the crash was never determined. 

     Ensign Gannon is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, New Jersey.

Sources:

Hudson Dispatch, “Two Jersey City Fliers Killed In Plane Crashes”, May 16, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

The crater left by Ensign Gannon's Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

The crater left by Ensign Gannon’s Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

 

 

 

 

Warwick, R. I. – November 2, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 2, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 2, 1942, two U.S. Army P-40 fighter planes, based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, were on a training flight over Narragansett Bay when they collided in mid-air.   

     One plane, (41-14135), piloted by Staff Sgt. John W. Smallseed, 21, of Newton Falls, Ohio, suffered minor damage and was able to return safely to Hillsgrove.    

     The second plane, (41-14183), piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Pierson, 23, of Chicago, suffered heavy wing damage, and he was forced to bail out.  After the bailout, Pierson’s plane continued on and crashed in the center of the intersection of Barton Street and Grand Avenue in the Warwick Neck Section of the city. 

     The aircraft narrowly missed an automobile being driven by Edward W. Thurber of Pawtuxet.  The explosion of the P-40’s impact spewed debris and gasoline onto his car setting it on fire.  Thurber, not knowing for sure what had just happened, jumped from his flaming car and allowed it to roll down a hill where it came to rest in a vacant lot and continued to burn.   

     A home at 49 Barton Avenue was also set on fire, but the owner was able to extinguish the flames with a garden hose. 

     Mrs. Forrest B. Morgan of Grand Avenue told reporters that she had been standing where the plane crashed for twenty minutes waiting for her daughter.  She had just started back towards her home when the plane hit and was not injured.

     Meanwhile, Lt. Pierson was seen landing in Narragansett Bay where he disappeared after hitting the water.  Four volunteer firemen from the Conimicut Fire Department launched a boat to rescue Pierson, but needed to be rescued themselves when their boat capsized in the rough water. 

     Some reports were later received that Pearson had been rescued, but these were found to be in error.  He was officially reported as “missing”.  

     Harry Robbins, an eye witness to the crash, told reporters, “One (plane) passed under the other and the two wings hit.  The bottom plane turned over a couple of times, the pilot jumped out, and one wing started to smoke.  Then the plane made two wide circles and I saw it coming towards me.  The explosion it made when it landed was deafening.” 

Source:

Providence Journal, “Two Army Planes Collide Over bay; One Pilot Missing”, November 3, 1942, Pg. 1

          

   

North Kingstown, R.I. – August 21, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 21, 1944

The Rose Hill area of Saunderstown

    

U.S. Navy Avengers National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On August 21, 1944, a flight of TBM Avengers out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were flying in formation over southern Rhode Island when one aircraft grazed its wing against the elevator of another sending it down over the Saunderstown section of North Kingstown.  The plane’s wing struck the roof of a vacant house belonging to Mrs. Mabel Barton before it crashed nose first into the side yard and exploded.  Flaming gasoline showered the home and set it ablaze.  All three crewmen aboard were killed instantly.

     The three men who lost their lives were:

     Walter Lee Miller Jr., 21, of Morton, Texas.

     Joseph Camel Beam, 20, of Pottstown, Penn.

     Donald Joseph Finkler, 19, of Cleveland, Ohio

     The other aircraft involved in the accident made it safely back to Quonset NAS.

     At the time of the crash, an 8-year-old boy was playing in his front yard nearby the Barton home, and suffered minor burns as a result of the flaming gasoline. 

     One eyewitness told reporters that after falling out of formation, the pilot had raced the motor in an effort to gain altitude.

     A second house in which an elderly invalid woman was residing was also set ablaze.  She was rescued by two Coast Guardsmen, Meredith E. Dobry, and Daniel Caruso, who happened to be in the area at the time of the crash.     

Sources:

Providence Journal, “Three Quonset Airmen Die As Plane Falls, Fires House”, August 22, 1944, Pg. 1

New York Times, “Plane Hits House; 3 Die”, August 22, 1944 

Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.

 

Exeter, R. I. – September 8, 1943

Exeter, Rhode Island – September 8, 1943

Updated March 9, 2018

    

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     Navy pilot Ensign Robert R. Hirshkind was killed instantly when his F4U-1 Corsair, (Bu. No. 02368), crashed on the farm of Wallace Foster in the town of Exeter, R. I.  Ensign Hirshkind had been on a formation training flight out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station when the accident occurred.  Approximately 12 miles south-west of Wickford the flight encountered thick overcast that dropped nearly to the ground.  The accident occurred as the flight was descending through the overcast on instruments.  

     Ensign Hirshkind was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 75, (VF(n)-75).

Sources:

     The Standard, “Exeter Plane Crash Kills Navy Pilot”, September 9, 1943, Pg. 8 

     U.S. Navy Accident report, #44-8367, dated September 8, 1943

Scituate, R. I. – June 17, 1943

Scituate, Rhode Island – June 17, 1943

    

P-47C Thunderbolt U.S. Air Force Photo

P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 17, 1943, a group of four army P-47 fighter aircraft left Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, R.I., for a training flight.  After an hour of flight time, the plane flown by 2nd Lt. Robert W. Powell developed engine trouble.  After notifying the flight leader of his situation his engine failed completely, and he was forced to “belly land” in an open field off Darby Road in the town of Scituate, R.I.   In coming down, the plane clipped the top of a tree, and skidded into a stone wall surrounded by brush.  The plane remained upright, and there was no fire.  Lt. Powell was relatively uninjured. 

 

 

     Scituate MapOne interesting footnote to this incident is the area in which this crash occurred.  Few people know that during World War II the former Suddard farm on Darby Road was the site of a top secret radio monitoring post, protected by armed guards, and staffed 24 hours a day by people tasked with listening to radio transmissions all over the world.  For some unexplained reason, this area of Scituate is capable of doing so.   

     The site was established in March of 1941, and remained in operation throughout the war.  It was credited for saving the Queen Mary with 10,000 troops aboard, and for preventing Japanese attempts to bomb American soil using hot air balloons. 

     Of course, Lt. Powell had no idea of this when he made his unexpected landing just down the street. 

     Powell’s aircraft was a P-47C Ser# 41-6132, assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, 311th Fighter Squadron.

     Another footnote: This was not Lt. Powell’s only forced landing.  On October 21, 1944, he and seven other P-47 pilots were forced to ditch in the water when low on fuel after an attack mission.  Powell’s plane’s serial number was 43-25636.     

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Crash Investigation report #43-6-7-14

     Providence Journal, “Army Plane Lands In Scituate Field”, June 18, 1943, Pg. 4.

     P-47 Ditching Story, www.pbyrescue.com/stories/p47_story.htm

               

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

    

    On June 14, 1943, Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Hamilton Morgan, (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) crashed on take-off at Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  The impact detonated a bomb the plane was carrying, fragments of which injured twenty-three men in the immediate area, but only three of them seriously.  

     Morgan initially survived the crash, but died the following day.  He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 1923, and was 19-years-old at the time of his death.  He was commissioned a midshipman in the R.N.V.R in 1942. 

     It was reported that Morgan was flying a single-seat aircraft, but the type was not specified. (Possibly a Corsair)  A newspaper account published June 17th mentioned another R.N.V.R. pilot was also killed on June 14 in an air crash in Rhode Island, but no specifics were given.  That pilot was identified as Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, 20, R.N.V.R., of Surrey, England.    

     Update 1: It has since been learned that Lt. Harris was killed when his Corsair I crashed behind a church in Tiverton, Rhode Island, on June 14, 1943.   

     Update 2:    

Quonset Point NAS June 14, 1943 U.S. Navy Photo

Quonset Point NAS
June 14, 1943
U.S. Navy Photo

     There is information to suggest that Sub-Lieutenant Morgan’s aircraft crashed into a bomb bunker setting off a series of explosions which might explain the high number of casualties connected to this incident.

     The aircraft piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Morgan was a Corsair I, on loan to the British.  

     (U.S. Navy Bu. No. 18139)

     (British number JT-117)

     

     Both Lt. Harris and Sub-Lieutenant Morgan are buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. 

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Victim Of Bomb Crash In Critical Condition”, June 16, 1943, Pg.1

     Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Names In R.I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg. 1

     University of Edinburgh Roll Of Honor, 1939- 1945

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #43-36

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581, and 15037579

 

      

Cumberland, R. I. – June 14, 1943

Cumberland, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943 

     On June 14, 1943, a U. S. Army P-47C Thunderbolt (41-6091) crashed on Abbott Run Valley Road in north Cumberland.  The aircraft came down clipping several tree tops before striking a telephone pole and crashing into the roadway.  The engine was torn loose and came to rest in a nearby potato field.  The plane was demolished.

     The cause of the crash was not stated.

     The pilot, William King, assigned to the 326 Fighter Group, survived the crash with relatively minor injuries.   

     Source: Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Unhurt”, June 15, 1943, Pg. 3

Cumberland, R. I. – September 8, 1940

Cumberland, Rhode Island – September 8, 1940

     On September 8, 1940, a small airplane crashed in a cornfield off Diamond Hill Road in Cumberland, not far from the Woonsocket Airport.  The plane was badly damaged, but there were no rep[orts of injuries.  No further details were mentioned.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Twas A Corn-y Landing”, September 9, 1940, Pg. 4

Off Prudence Island, R.I. – October 26, 1984

Off Prudence Island, Rhode Island – October 26, 1984

     On the evening of October 26,1984, a small private plane with a husband and wife aboard left T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I., bound for Prudence Island, an island located in Narragansett Bay.   The couple owned property on Prudence Island, and routinely commuted via airplane to the mainland.

     The plane left T.F. Green at 6:40 p.m.  The weather at the time was cloudy and rain was falling.  At 8:25 p.m. that night the plane was reported overdue.

     The following morning, two friends of the missing couple began a search using an aircraft, and spotted the wreckage in 8 feet of water between Prudence Island and Patience Island.  The tails section had been torn away by the crash.

     Divers recovered the body of the wife inside the aircraft, but the husband was reportedly missing.  

     Source:

     The Day, “One Dead, One Missing In R.I. Plane Crash”, October 28, 1984

North Smithfield, R.I. – May 11,1941

North Smithfield, R.I. – May 11, 1941

Slatersville Athletic Field

     On May 11, 1941, George W. Verdon Jr., 22, took off from Ironstone Airport in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in a small airplane.  Shortly afterward he developed engine trouble and was forced to make an emergency landing at the Slatersville Athletic Field in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. After landing safely, he set to work on the motor.  After awhile, he was ready to take off again.

     As the aircraft began to leave the ground the engine suddenly cut out and the plane nosed into the field and skidded to a halt.  George emerged with minor injuries and was takne to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Plane Crashes On Slatersville Athletic Field”, May 12, 1941 

       

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

 Rhode Island

     There isn’t much information available about this accident as news reports were vague.     

     On February 13, 1943, two navy planes collided in mid-air while on a training flight over the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island.  The type of planes was not stated, but there were four crewmen between the two planes, three of whom were lost.   Their names were not stated.

     The sole survivor was identified as Aviation Mechinist’s Mate Joseph Leo Wallace, who was thrown clear by the impact, and saved by his parachute.  Wallace was rescued by a “fast Navy motor boat” which then developed engine trouble off Newport and drifted onto some rocks.  Wallace and the boat crew were rescued by the Coast Guard.  (The boat could not be saved.)

     Sources:

     Providence Journal: “4 Lost, 2 Rescued In Plane Mishaps”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 5 (It should be noted that the headline does not match up to this particular story because two crashes were reported ion the same article.  The other crash occurred in Maine where one man was lost and another saved.)

The Milwaukee Journal, “Tossed Into Space As Planes Collide, Chute Saves Him”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 1

    

    

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935

Hillsgrove Airport – August 28, 1935 

Warwick, Rhode Island     

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard. Today known as T.F. Green State Airport - Warwick, R.I.

Vintage Hillsgrove Airport Postcard.
Today known as T.F. Green State Airport – Warwick, R.I.

     On the morning of August 28, 1935, veteran pilot Joshua Crane Jr., 37, began his final approach to a temporary field adjoining Hillsgrove Airport from an altitude of 1500 feet.  Crane was flying a Waco, model YOC, (NC-14621), a four passenger aircraft.   Also aboard was Arthur E. Howe, 26, of Philadelphia.  Both were en-route from Boston to Cleveland, Ohio, and were stopping at Hillsgrove to pick up a third man, Arthur L. Johnson of Cranston. 

    The weather was clear with a southwest wind of 20 miles per hour and gusty.  When the plane had dropped to 500 feet, a gust of wind sent it into a left spin and it plunged to the ground in a small lot on Occupassatuxet Road in Warwick’s Hoxie section, miraculously missing any houses in the area.  (Occupassatuxet Road no longer exists.  It was taken by eminent domain during an airport expansion project.) The impact drove the plane’s motor into the passenger cabin causing severe crushing injuries to both men.   

     Bystanders pulled Crane and Howe from the crumpled wreck and both were transported St. Joseph’s Hospital in critical condition.  Crane died shortly afterwards, and Howe was reportedly only given a 50-50 chance of survival.   

    The death of Joshua Crane came as a shock to the New England aviation world, for he was regarded as an excellent pilot throughout the region. He began flying after graduating from Harvard University in 1917 at the age of twenty.  At that time, World War I was raging in Europe and he enlisted in the United States Navy as a pilot where he received training at Squantum, Massachusetts, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.  By 1918 he was stationed in England flying anti-submarine patrols trying to prevent German U-boats from attacking convoys.  

     While in England, he met his future wife Dora, and they married in 1920.  

     After leaving the navy, he continued flying in the relatively new sport of air racing where his reputation grew.  Besides racing, he also became involved with several air-passenger service ventures that flew out of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.   By 1930 he had become general manager of Southern New England Airways, Inc., a long defunct service that once flew out of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  During the literally thousands of hours he logged in the air, it was estimated that he had transported more than 25,000 passengers.

     In addition to passengers, he also flew humanitarian missions and ferried people for the government.  On one occasion he flew from Boston with a planeload of prisoners destined for the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  Shortly before his death, he had taken Rhode Island’s Governor Theodore Francis Green and a military aide to an army camp in upstate New York to observe war games.  The plane that the governor flew on was the same one that Mr. Crane was piloting the day he crashed. 

     Like many pilots, Crane had his share of “close calls”.  One incident occurred in November of 1930 when a glider he was piloting went down in Pawtucket.  Neither he nor his two passengers were seriously hurt. In April of 1933 his plane loaded with passengers crash landed in southern Rhode Island when the motor lost power, but thankfully those aboard suffered only minor injuries.  Then in July of that same year the landing gear collapsed as he touched down at an airport in Skowhegan, Maine. 

     In February of 1934 he became stranded on an island that he owned known as “No Man’s Land” located about three miles off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  (Today the island is known as “Normans Land”). On that occasion, he had “nosed-over” on landing and damaged the propeller which forced him to wait until the Coast Guard could bring a new one.   

     The accident which killed Joshua Crane was investigated by the Department of Commerce.  Investigators who examined the wreckage found, “The airplane was so broken up that very little could be learned as to the control system prior to the accident except that all control surfaces were still attached, and the left wing flap was found to be in full down position while the right one was in full up position.  In analyzing this accident, full cognizance was given to the fact that most probably the left wing flap functioned while the right one did not.” 

    This possible malfunction of the flaps, combined with gusty wind conditions, may have led to the crash.  

Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, Joshua Crane Jr., Dead, Passenger Injured In Crash”, August 28, 1935, Page 1.

The Providence Journal, “Joshua Crane, Jr., Fatally Injured As Plane Crashes”, August 29, 1935, Page 1.

Department Of Commerce, Report of the Accident Board 

 

 

Charlestown, R.I. – March 2, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 2, 1945 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field

     Updated July 13, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 11:15 p.m. on March 2, 1945, Lt. (jg.) Kenneth B. McQuady, age 21, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71418,) for a night training flight.  Just after he became airborne, his aircraft was seen to lose altitude and crash on the ice covered water of Charlestown Pond at the end of Runway 22.  Upon impact the belly tank ruptured and caught fire.  The plane bounced another 100 yards before coming to rest.   Lt. McQuady received fatal injuries.

     Lt. McQuady is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Bartow, Florida.

     The propeller from Lieutenant McQuady’s Hellcat was recovered years after his accident and presented to the Quonset Air Museum and made into a memorial. 

    

Quonset Air Museum Memorial to Lt. Jg. Kenneth Bruce McQuady

Description of accident that killed Lt. McQuady

     Unfortunately, since this original posting, the Quonset Air Museum has closed.

     Sources:

     Quonset Air Museum 

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated March 2, 1945

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Hillsgrove Airport – December 22, 1940

Warwick, Rhode Island

     On December 22, 1940, two aircraft, each flown by student pilots, collided in mid-air directly over Hillsgrove Airport.  One, an Aeronca Cub, flown by Gilbert B. Kornstein, 19, and the other a Taylorcraft, flown by Millard McInnis, 26.   

    The impact broke the tail off the Aeronca, sending it plummeting to the ground killing Kornstein instantly.

     McInnis was able to nurse his damaged plane down, clipping a tree and flipping over in the Norwood section of Warwick, about three miles from the airport.  He required a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood from a leg wound, but he survived. 

Source: 

Woonsocket Call, “Young North Smithfield Flier Dies In Mid-Air Crash”, December 23, 1940, Pg. 1  

    

North Smithfield, R.I. – June 29, 1934

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – June 29, 1934

Montgomery Airport

     On June 29, 1934, Lieutenant Malcolm Stewart (U.S. Army)  left Boston in a Douglas bi-plane bound for Montgomery Airport in North Smithfield to pick up Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, who was to fly the plane back to Boston for tactical flight training.  As Stewart was coming in to land, he overshot the field, and just as the wheels touched down he gunned the engine for another try, but there wasn’t enough open space to gain altitude.  The plane crashed into a stone wall and a cusp of trees at the end of the field.  Stewart was saved from serious injury by his safety belt.      

     Montgomery Airport was located in the Waterford section of the town of North Smithfield, east of the Blackstone River, and north of present-day Route 146. Information gleaned from old Department of Commerce maps indicates the airport was in use only a short time beginning in the early 1930s, and was closed by 1936.  

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Local Airport Is Visited By Three Big Army Planes”, June 30, 1934, Pg. 1

Block Island, R.I. – August 27, 1931

Block Island, R. I. – August 27, 1931

     Very little information is available about this accident.  On the afternoon of August 27, 1931, Evald Lundberg, a.k.a. Gottfred E. Lundberg, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, was burned to death when his airplane crashed on Block Island after his engine failed.

     For those that don’t know, Block Island is three miles off the coast of Rhode Island. 

Source: New York Times, “Flier Dies In Block Island Crash”, August 28, 1931.     

Newport, R.I. – July 20, 1923

Newport, R.I. – July 20, 1923

Updated January 9, 2016

     On July 20, 1923, a plane belonging to the New York – Newport Air Line (Service) was making a flight from New York City to Newport, Rhode Island, with a pilot and two passengers aboard, when it crashed at Newport.  The aircraft, named Fleet Wing, suddenly fell from an altitude of 75 feet while making a sharp turn in preparation for a water landing.  The plane plunged into the water and flipped over, and all three men were ejected by the impact. 

     The most seriously injured was H. Cary Morgan, who suffered a compound fracture to his leg.  He was transported to Newport Naval Hospital where it was determined that his leg was too badly mangled to be saved, and amputation was necessary.  A pint-and-a-half of blood was donated by Pharmacists Mate 3C William J. Majeski of Meriden, Connecticut.  Unfortunately, complications set in, and Mr. Morgan passed away.

     The pilot, H.H. Thorburn, and the other passenger, Henry Fowler, survived the crash with minor injuries.

     The terminal for the airline was close to the Newport Naval Station.  When the accident occurred, help from the station arrived quickly.  The heavily damaged plane was towed to shore by two navy boats.   

     The airline also had another plane in its fleet, the Gray Lark, which had arrived a few minutes before the accident.   

     Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Newport Line Plane Upsets As It Lands”, July 21, 1923, Pg. 9

Woonsocket Call, “H. Cary Morgan Dead Following Accident”, July 24, 1923, Pg. 1

Meriden Morning Record, “Meriden Boy Gives His Blood In Vain”, July 30, 1923       

New York Times, “Air Liner Crashes In Newport Landing”, July 21, 1923  

        

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Warwick, Rhode Island

 Hillsgrove Airfield is now T. F. Green State Airport

    

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922. Library Of Congress Photo

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922.
Library Of Congress Photo

     On May 26, 1927, navy Lieutenants Adolphus W. Gorton and Clifton Sprague were scheduled to fly from Hillsgrove Airfield in Warwick, Rhode Island, to Washington, D.C..  The plane took off with Gorton at the helm, and when the aircraft was barely 100 feet off the ground it suddenly looped in a circle and struck the top of thirty-foot tree near the end of the field.  After glancing off the tree, the aircraft plunged downward into the ground, plowing the turf for thirty-five feet before coming to rest in a heap of wreckage. 

     Lieutenant Sprague escaped with minor injuries, but Gorton suffered the loss of three teeth and his nose was reportedly “torn nearly from his face”.   The crash was witnessed by Lieutenant Gorton’s mother who had gone to the airfield to see him off.   Gorton later recovered rom his injuries.

     Lt. Adolphus Worthington Gorton was born in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, on January 29, 1897, the son of Charles A. Gorton Jr..  After attending Dartmouth College for one year, he entered the American Ambulance Service shortly before the United States entered WWI, and served in France.  Seven months later he was operated on for appendicitis and was sent home.  After his recovery, he transferred to the naval air service and began pilot training.  

     As a naval pilot, he distinguished himself in may ways throughout his career.  A few examples include:

     On October 8, 1922 he won the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy in Detroit, Michigan for attaining an average speed of 112.6 mph.  The trophy was sterling silver worth at the time to be $5,000.  

     On August 8, 1923, he broke two aviation speed records in one day flying a U. S. Navy NW-2 over the Delaware River at 177.5 mph, and then 185.5 mph respectively.   

     On July 3, 1929, Gorton successfully “docked” his aircraft while in flight to the airship USS Los Angeles. 

     Gorton died September 28, 1989 in Florida at the age of 92.   

Sources:

New York Times, “Lieut. Gorton Wins Air Race”, October 9, 1922 

Providence Journal, “Lieut. Gorton Hurt As Plane Crashes”, May 27, 1924, Pg. 1

 

 

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

One mile northeast off Quonset Point Naval Air Station

    

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On February 10, 1945, Ensign Pierce Hubert Beach, 22, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in an F6F-5N Hellcat (Bu. No. 58058) for a routine training flight where he and other aircraft were to practice carrier landings and takeoffs.  He was killed when his plane crashed into Narragansett Bay.  

     Ensign Beach earned his pilots wings at Pensacola, Florida, in May of 1944, and was married in June, ’44.   

     Sources:

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Navy Pilot Killed; Another Missing”, February 12, 1945, Pg. 1

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian & Archeologist

     The (Bunnell Florida) Flagler Tribune, (no headline) February 15, 1945

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 10, 1945

Woonsocket, R.I. – June 12, 1919

Woonsocket, R.I. – June 12, 1919

         

Post card view of a U.S. Army plane at  Mineola Filed, N.Y. - 1918

Post card view of a U.S. Army plane at
Mineola Filed, N.Y. – 1918

     In the spring of 1919, the U.S. Army was looking to recruit new pilots to replace those that had been discharged since the end of World War One.  To that end, the army organized “air circuses” to be performed by army pilots at local airfields around the country.  The events would be advertised in local papers to generate interest, and usually drew large crowds. 

     So it was on June 12, 1919 that a U.S. Army, Curtis bi-plane, took off from Mineola, Long Island at 11:15 a.m. headed for Middletown, Connecticut.  The pilot was Lieutenant R.C. Mofett and the observer was Private O.V. Rubel.  They arrived at Middletown in the early afternoon and ate lunch while their plane was serviced.  An hour later they were airborne again and set a course for Camp Devens, Massachusetts, where they would join up with other aircraft.

     As they were passing over Burrillville, Rhode Island, Lieutenant Mofett realized they were low on fuel.  Apparently the ground crew at Middletown had neglected to top off the tanks.

     Air fields were few and far between in those days and landing in just any open field carried risks.  The landing gear could land in a rut causing it to nose-over, or a wing could dip causing it to tear away.  Their maps showed that the nearest airfield was in Woonsocket only a few miles away.

     As the plane neared Woonsocket Airport, the motor began to sputter and Mofett realized they would never make the air field.  Looking down, he spotted an open area known as “Ronian’s Field” near present-day Mount St. Charles Academy, and put the plane in a glide and aimed for the field.

     As the ground loomed closer, Mofett suddenly noticed young Evelyn Moody sitting on a stone wall at the near end of the field.  He could feel the plane dropping lower than he expected, and realized there was a good chance they might not make the field.  If that was the case then they would strike the wall right where the little girl was sitting!  

     Mofett shouted desperately at the little girl who looked up to see the aircraft coming straight at her.  There are many children and adults alike who would have sat frozen in terror at such a sight, but Evelyn was quick to react.  Not a moment to soon, she rolled off the wall and landed on its opposite side just as the landing gear crashed into the very spot where she had been sitting!  With its landing gear torn away, the aircraft passed over Evelyn as she lay hugging the ground against the far side of the wall.  When the fuselage struck the grassy field it plowed into the soft earth throwing its occupants forward against the front of their cockpits.  Lieutenant Mofett suffered a gash to his head that would require stitches, but otherwise the men were alright.  Evelyn was lucky too, and stood up to stare at the wrecked plane, a sight she would undoubtedly remember for the rest of her life.    

     It was reported that the accident attracted almost 5,000 people from the area. Woonsocket’s Chief of Police was forced to detail a squad of officers to hold crowds at bay until Army officials could send mechanics to remove the plane.  In the meantime, the aircrew was taken to the St. James Hotel in downtown Woonsocket.  

Source

The Woonsocket Call, “Plane Forced To Land Here”, June 13, 1919, Page 1

 

 

Glocester, R.I. – January 17, 1966

Glocester, R.I. – January 17, 1966

     On January 17, 1966, a single-engine Beechcraft T-34 took off from North Central Airport in Smithfield en-route to upstate New York.   Shortly after take off, the pilot noticed the oil pressure dropping rapidly.  After declaring an emergency, he attempted to return to North Central, but then the engine began to skip and sputter before it stopped completely.  The pilot was forced to set the plane down in an open field on the farm of Kenneth Clemence, located on Tarklin Road near the Glocester/Smithfield town line.   

     The plane skidded about 40 yards across the field up a slight incline before coming to rest against a stone wall.  Damage was minor, and the pilot, Airman 1c William J. Fornes, 26, and his passenger, Airman 1c Richard L. Berube, 20, both of Griffiss Air Force base in Rome, New York, were unhurt.  The plane was a civilian aircraft belonging to a flying-club at Griffiss.  

Source: Providence Journal, “Plane’s Forced Landing Probed”, January 18, 1966, Pg. 31

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971  

       

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall's F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum. Photo by Jim Ignasher

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall’s F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum.
Photo by Jim Ignasher

     On June 4, 1971, an F-4J Phantom jet (#153082) belonging to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team, caught fire in flight over Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  The pilot, Commander Harley H. Hall aimed the plane towards Narraganset Bay before bailing out.

     Hall was commanding officer of the Blue Angels for two years.  He was promoted to the rank of Commander at the age of 32, which at the time made him the youngest Commander in the navy. 

     By 1973, Hall was serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) flying combat missions over Vietnam.   On January 27, 1973, Commander Hall and Lt. Cmdr. Phillip A. Kientzler took off from the Enterprise in an F-4J Phantom to attack Vietnamese supplies and logistics vehicles 15 miles northwest of Quang Tri.  During the attack the Phantom was hit by anti-aircraft fire and Hall and Kientzler were forced to bail out at 4,000 feet.  On the way down, Kientzler was shot in the leg and quickly captured.  Hall landed safely, and was last observed by another F-4 pilot circling overhead entering the jungle to evade enemy forces.  He was never seen again.    

     In Vancouver, Washington, there is a building named in Commander Hall’s memory.  The H. H. Hall Building located at 10000 NE 7th Avenue.  (www.hhhallbuiding.com)

    There is also a book about Harley Hall and the Blue Angles titled “Left Alive To Die”, by Susan Keen, c. 2011      

      Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Pilot Killed In Accident At Air Show”, June 7, 1971, Pg. 3.  The headline of this article is actually about an accident at the Quonset Air Show that took the life of J. W. “Bill” Fornof on June 5, 1971.  The accident involving the Blue Angel aircraft was mentioned in it because it happened the day before.       

     The Columbian, “Cmdr. Harley Hall, Shot Down 40 Years Ago”, January 27, 2013 

     www.pownetwork.org/bios/

 

 

Quonset Point, R.I. – June 5, 1971

Quonset Point, R.I. – June 5, 1971

     On June 5, 1971, the annual Quonset Air Show, a.k.a. Rhode Island Air Show, was being held at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  The second to last portion of the show that day included an aerobatic exposition of two former U.S. Navy F8F Bearcat aircraft flown by a father and son team.   Ten minutes into the exhibition, the wing of one aircraft, (N7700C) piloted by J. W. “Bill” Fornof, suddenly broke away.  The aircraft crashed in a wooded area on Quidnesset Road, about 1.5 miles from the base.   Mr. Fornof, 46, of Houma, Louisiana, was killed.

    His son, J. W. “Corkey” Fornof, flying the other Bearcat was not injured.    

    Investigators blamed the wing failure on metal fatigue.

    Mr. Fornof earned his wings as a navy pilot at the age of 19 in 1945, and served in both WWII and Korea.   

    For more information about J. W. “Bill” Fornof, and a photo of his aircraft, see “Bill Fornof Memorial – Chapter 513 Houma, LA”, at www.513.eaachapter.org/billfornofmemorial.htm 

    Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Pilot Killed In Accident At Air Show”, June 7, 1971, Pg. 3

    (Lafourche Parish, Louisiana) Daily Comet, ” Courier Reports On Death Of Local Aviator”, By Bill Ellzey, June 8, 2011.

     U.S. Navy & U.S. Marine Corps BuNos, www.joebaugher.com

    

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

70 miles south-east of Block island

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of November 20, 1952, a two navy P2V Neptunes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station were taking part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise off Block Island with the submarine USS Piper, (SS-409), and the navy tug, USS Hopi, (AFT-71). 

     Shortly after 4:00 a.m. the two planes rendezvoused over the Jamestown Bridge in Narragansett Bay, and headed for the operational area about 70 miles off Block Island.  One planes was piloted by Lieut. Alvin S. Hibbs, and the other by Lt. Cmdr. Noble R. Kean. (Bu. No. 124242) 

     Hibbs later told investigators, “Commander Kean was behind me a mile or so, and we carried on radio chit-chat.  He said all the other men were in very high spirits over the radio.  We arrived at the operating area a half hour later and circled for awhile, and then endeavored to make radar contact with out target.  There were two targets visible by radar, and I investigated on while Commander Kean investigated the other.” 

     Hibbs found his “target” and after making two “runs” on it he tried to contact Kean by radio, but couldn’t.  Then the submarine and tug tried to make contact and were unsuccessful.

     Hibbs flew over Kean’s last known position and found two smoke lights and debris on the water’s surface. The smoke lights had apparently broken free of the wreck and were automatically activated.   The tug arrived in the area and collected some of the debris, but found no sign of the crew.  

     One of the last to see the missing aircraft was Lieut. Herbert C. Taft, who was aboard the submarine Piper when Kean’s Neptune passed over.  “I observed the aircraft going across our bow on his run. I observed no malfunctioning of the aircraft and received no notification by radio that anything was wrong.  I followed his flight out for approximately four or five miles.” 

     At that point the lights on the Neptune,  “indicated it was making a right banking turn.”     

     “Shortly thereafter”, Taft went on, “we heard a dull thud.  Because there was no indication of an explosion and no flash, this particular noise worried me, so I went below and tried to contact the aircraft to no avail.”

     The cause of the crash could not be determined.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Comdr. Noble R. Kean, 34, a native of Evanston, Ill. He was survived by his wife Sarah.

     Lt. Thomas J. Tiernan, 28, of Wickford, R.I.

     Aviation Mechanic 2c John R. Quirk, 27, of Lavelle, Penn. He was married just twelve days earlier on November 8, to Miss Constance Lussier of West Warwick, R.I.

     Aviation Ordnance Man 2c George A. Buehler, 22, of Nekoosa, Wis. He too was recently married on October 4 to Miss Irene Carvalho of West Warwick.

     Lt. Seymour A. Moyl, 26, of Bronx, N.Y.

     Aviation Electronics Man 1c Roland O. Eades, 29, of Indiana.

     Seaman Salvatore A. Coia, 21, of Rome, N.Y.

     Seaman Joseph A. gray, 20, Bronx, N.Y.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Bomber Plunges Into Atlantic Off Block Island”, November 21, 1952, Pg. 1

     Providence Journal, “Quonset pilot Described Crash As Observed From Submarine”, November 21, 1952 

       

        

         

 

         

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 4, 1951, a navy P2v-3 Neptune, (Bu. No. 122978) took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station with seven men aboard to take part in an exercise with a submarine in the waters between Block Island and Montauk Point, Long Island, N.Y.  

     According to one eyewitness account, “The plane showed evidence of being in distress.  Then it suddenly plunged, struck the water and exploded.” 

  

      The plane was assigned to Patrol Squadron 5, (VP-5) tasked with locating submarines using sophisticated electronics.

     The plane crashed about 30 miles east of Montauk Point. (71-42W, 40-30N) 

     The cause of the accident was not determined.  All seven men aboard were killed.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Cmdr. Jerome J. Rossillion, 32, Jacksonville NAS.

     Lt. Herschell B. Thorpe, 30, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Technician Charles G. Chapman, 21, Malden, Mass. 

     Chief Aviation Machinist Charles L. Cook, 32, Yukon, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Ralph R. Maxfield, 29, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Frank M. Roeder Jr., 21, St. Louis, Mo.

     Aviation Ordinance Man Kenneth G. Peterson, 26, Jacksonville, Fla.   

     According to naval authorities, the plane had been at Quonset for two weeks, and had left about an hour before the accident.

     Source: Pawtucket Times, “Quonset Plane Crashes, 7 Die” September 5, 1951, Pg. 1

Warwick, R.I. – September 21, 1985

Warwick, Rhode Island – September 21, 1985

     On September 21, 1985, a Beech V35B, (N5NG), with a husband and wife aboard took off from Worcester, Massachusetts.  While over the Providence metropolitan area, approximately 12 miles away from T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, the pilot radioed he was having trouble with the engine and requested clearance to land.  The pilot was given vectors to T.F. Greene, but on his approach, the aircraft lost power and crashed into the Jersey barrier of the northbound lanes of Interstate Route 95, about a tenth of a mile south of Exit 15.  Both were killed.  

     Miraculously, no vehicles on the highway were involved in the accident.    

     The cause of the crash was determined to be a failure of the engine crankshaft from fatigue.  

     Source:

     NTSB – NYC85FA244, microfiche # 29832

     Woonsocket Call, “Crash Of Small Plane On I-95 Claims Lives Of Worcester Couple”, September 22, 1985

Narragansett, RI – August 9, 1914

Narragansett, Rhode Island – August 9, 1914

     On August 9, 1914, aviator Harry M. Jones was seriously injured when he crashed his airplane in the Narrow River in Narragansett.  No further details were given.

Source: New York Times, “Narragansett Flier Hurt”, August 10, 1914

     Jones was famous for landing his airplane on the Boston Common on January 2, 1913, to collect a cash prize offered by a Boston newspaper to the first person to do it. Unfortunately the newspaper had rescinded the offer two days earlier. 

Update June 19, 2016

     Jones was involved in an earlier crash on May 25, 1913, when he crashed into Narragansett Bay while giving an exhibition at a baseball game.. For details, see elsewhere on this website under Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents. 

        

Middletown, R.I. – August 3, 1937

Middletown, Rhode Island – August 3, 1937

         

1930s map showing the former location of the airport in Middletown, R.I.

1930s map showing the former location of the airport in Middletown, R.I.

     On the morning of August 3, 1937, Everett Johnson Peck Jr., of New York, flew his private airplane from Bridgehamption, Long Island, to Newport Airport, in Middletown, Rhode Island.

     The airport currently known as Newport State Airport was opened n 1967, and is not the same Newport Airport that Mr. Peck flew to.  That airport was located on the shore of Narragansett Bay in the town of Middletown, and no longer exists. (See map – click on image to enlarge.)   

     Mr. Peck arrived at the airport safely.  At about noon time, he decided to take off again to view the start of the America’s Cup Race, however he crashed on takeoff and was taken to Newport Hospital with serious injuries.    

     The type of plane was not stated.

     Source: New York Times, “E. J. Peck Jr. Injured”, August 5, 1937

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲